A long list of energy firsts establishes our region as pretty much having invented the global energy industry. Yet despite our heritage and continuing energy developments, we never have taken a comprehensive look at the ways we source, use and, especially, waste energy.
This chart, commissioned by the economic development group Sustainable Pittsburgh, does just that. It is a first-ever graphical depiction of energy flows in the Power of 32 region, uniting Pittsburgh and 32 counties across western Maryland, eastern Ohio, southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia.
The chart uses 2011 data, the most recent available for all energy types. The region’s energy sources, depicted with colored bars, are listed on the left side. The amount of each source, generated here or imported, is listed in trillion Btu. The right side of the chart shows what happens to each energy source as it is funneled to end users.
For example, coal is the region’s biggest energy source, accounting for 2,080 trillion Btu in 2011. That year, 790 trillion Btu were exported. Trillions more were converted to electricity or otherwise used locally in homes, businesses, industry or transportation.
But much of the energy from coal and all other energy sources simply was wasted or went unused, due to typical inefficiencies during the generation and transmission processes and at the points of consumption. In all, of the 3,400 trillion Btu generated and imported in 2011, about 40 percent — 1,400 trillion Btu —was lost.
What other insights can be drawn from the chart?
Our vehicles are inefficient and almost totally dependent on imported petroleum. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, were dwarfed in their share of energy production. And about half of the natural gas produced here was exported.
This chart provides the public and policymakers with a starting point, or baseline, to inform choices about our future. Other regions are developing formal energy plans and strategies. Such a plan could help us make better decisions about our economic, environmental and social health and vitality.
To begin to address these issues, 20 regional organizations will host a kickoff event from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.
The event — “Energy for the Power of 32: 32 Counties, 4 States, 1 Energy Future” — will feature remarkable guest speakers, presentation of this energy flow chart and a participant working session to develop recommendations.
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Please join us. To learn more about the chart or data sources or to register for the event, please visit www.energy4p32.org.
Court Gould (email@example.com) is the executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, one of the 20 groups presenting Thursday’s energy event.