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Mapping How Much Energy Every Neighborhood in LA is Using

It used to be that energy companies were the only ones who had access to information about how much energy we were all using—neither customers nor city governments had access to those numbers. But now, using US Census data, property records, and "never-before-released" information on energy use from public utilities, the UCLA Center for Sustainable Cities has created a first-of-its-kind database and interactive map for Los Angeles County (LA Energy Atlas) that shows energy use all over the city, says a release from UCLA. Finally, a tool to help point fingers at all the energy hogs, right? Not exactly.

Before this map, there wasn't a ton of detail on how much energy was being used in LA; it was basically "the equivalent of knowing that cars produced greenhouses gases, but not knowing the emissions difference between a diesel truck and a hybrid car," says UCLA professor Stephanie Pincetl, head of the Energy Atlas project. Not too helpful. But the new interactive map allows users to see specific information by type of building (e.g. residential, commercial), the amount of energy used, or city by city. (The map covers almost all of LA county; there were five cities for which energy records weren't available.)

The searchable map and its data reveal that countywide, the most inefficient buildings aren't the oldest ones, but ones from the 1970s. The map also shows that "wealthy areas consume more than three times as much energy as poor areas," and that the average Malibu resident uses 10 times the energy of the average person in Bell.

But economics aren't cut-and-dry indicators of energy usage. "Economically disadvantaged" Hawaiian Gardens has some high energy use numbers too, says KPCC. By square foot, researchers have found that people living in poorer communities use about as much energy as those in richer ones, but they're not sure why that is. "There's something going on there that we need to look at and fix," Pincetl said, adding that it's possible that buildings in poorer areas are less energy efficient.

As their analysis of the data continues, the creators of the Energy Atlas hope that politicians, policymakers, and businesses will use the information to inform future rules and rewards for energy saving.

· UCLA's free Energy Atlas uncovers L.A. buildings' role in greenhouse gas emissions [UCLA Newsroom]
· LA Energy Atlas [Official site]