Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on November 13, 2020
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on December 9, 2020
Adopted by the Board of Direction on January 16, 2021
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports a national renewable energy policy that promotes a broad, balanced, renewable energy portfolio. The portfolio should promote developing clean and renewable energy sources while encouraging energy conservation and efficiency. Specifically, the policy should:
- Support clean, efficient renewable energy sources that meet the nation's energy demands by relying on efficient use of domestic natural resources.
- Provide market incentives to encourage renewable energy production.
- Promote the continued transition of the energy sector to clean, renewable energy sources that reduce our nation's reliance on fossil fuels and promote national and economic security.
- Promote the use of energy sources and generation methods that allow for equity, affordability, and access by all members of the community and lessen the burden of energy production and distribution on environmental justice communities.
- Provide a balanced and continuing research and development (R&D) program for all sources of domestic renewable energy production that includes private industry, local, state, and national governments, and supports a clean renewable energy supply.
Population growth and economic development create demands for energy. Fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas have long been economical sources of fuel. However, while technologies exist to reduce the carbon emission (greenhouse gases) from fossil fuels, and as a source they are decreasing in use, fossil fuels still account for most fuel used for energy generation in the United States. Technology advances have continued to expand the supply and lower the cost of fossil fuels, namely oil and natural gas. There has been a marked migration away from coal to natural gas and renewables to electrical production. Achieving sustainability and resiliency goals dictate a continued migration from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
Renewable energy comes from fuel sources that restore themselves over a brief period, do not deplete, and have low if any carbon emissions. Although some renewable energy technologies have an impact on the environment, renewables are environmentally preferable to fossil fuel sources. When replacing fossil fuels, renewables have potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
ASCE recognizes the importance of a diverse renewable energy portfolio. Such a portfolio can lead to research that not only develops renewable energy sources but improves nonrenewable energy sources. A diverse energy portfolio will not only yield reduced social and environmental impacts but result in more economical and reliable supplies of energy for the future.
Civil engineers use many strategies to promote reduced energy use in projects and minimize greenhouse gas emission. Most entail making design and operating decisions, while meeting all other performance measures. Some strategies promote using renewable energy and low-impact development techniques. Other mitigation strategies include minimizing energy use by reducing transport distances through use of local materials, using recycled instead of virgin materials, and using ecological engineering solutions. The life cycle net embodied energy needs to be considered the basis of renewable energy. Renewability lies at the heart of all these strategies.
Prudently managing our national energy resources and timely developing new renewable energy technologies and sources are public policy issues of concern to ASCE. Technological advances have expanded the available supply of fossil fuels and lower their price to consumers. However, the economics of energy production must be balanced against sustainability and environmental goals to mitigate greenhouse gas emission.
Planning and developing renewable energy sources responsibly have long been a role of civil engineers. ASCE recognizes the need for continued economical, reliable, and environmentally responsible renewable energy development and production in the United States. A national renewable energy policy that considers both short- and long-term needs and better aligns funding sources with sustainable renewable energy system needs will help guide civil engineers in their work. This is critical to industrial and commercial expansion, economic growth, and stability, and heightened renewable energy security.
ASCE Policy Statement 563
First Approved in 2021