Does Urban Living Reduce Energy Use?

01-10-2017 | Publication

The claim by Edward Glaeser and others that cities make us greener has been verified for the Netherlands, based on empirical data available on a detailed level. When considering ‘greener’ to mean using less domestic energy, urban areas seem to be more energy-efficient than non-urban areas, as far as mobility and energy consumption (natural gas and electricity) is concerned.

Yet, for energy consumption, this depends on the unit of measurement; when calculated per dwelling and per person, urban areas consume less energy, but when calculated per square metre of residential floor space, there is no clear relationship with urban density. Type of housing and household type are better indicators of energy consumption. Renewable energy generation through the use of solar panels placed on roofs is found more often in non-urban areas where the roofs are more suited to solar panels. These are also the areas where local wind power and solar energy initiatives are found more frequently.