Reconstructing the Energy History of a City

For informed decision making about the current state and near future of any city, it is important to consider the long-term resource use trajectory and legacy of its past. Such information is not always readily available. Urban metabolism analysis for any given time period can be challenging due to the lack of metropolitan- or city-level data, and reconstructing a time series of urban energy or material flows is seldom attempted. For the case of Melbourne, Australia, we demonstrate how time series operational energy demand and supply data can be reconstructed from original sources. Primary energy consumption is calculated based on direct and upstream energy use in common with “scope 2” standards for emissions reporting. This extends the usual treatment of energy in urban metabolism studies by (1) providing time series data and (2) attributing upstream primary energy consumption to sectors based on their direct secondary energy usage. Results indicate that the transport, commercial, manufacturing, and residential sectors have contributed most to the doubling of Melbourne's energy consumption over four decades. We discuss recent urban development history and its relation to energy consumption and briefly examine potential scenarios of and responses to future change.