Top 10 Energy Efficient U.S. Cities

Mayors and local lawmakers in America’s largest cities continue to take innovative steps to lower energy costs for consumers and businesses, increase their resilience, and reduce pollution through increased energy efficiency, according to the 2nd edition of the City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released recently by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Available online at http://aceee.org/local-policy/city-scorecard, the ACEEE report finds that Boston continues to be the most energy-efficient city in the nation, receiving 82 out of a possible 100 points, an improvement of more than five points from that city’s 2013 score. Trailing Boston, the top 10 US cities for energy efficiency are: New York City (#2), Washington, DC (#3), San Francisco (#4), Seattle (#5), Chicago (#6), Minneapolis (#7), Portland (#8), Austin (#9), and Denver (#10). With 9 of the top 10 cities improving their scores from 2013, Boston faced increased competition for the top spot.

Key findings in the 2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard include the following:

* Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle are the most improved cities compared to the 2013 City Scorecard, with many showing double-digit improvements in their scores. Los Angeles, for example, established a strong energy savings goal, and Chicago enacted a new commercial building benchmarking ordinance.

* Other cities have also improved their scores since the last edition, including several in the Southeast United States. Atlanta, the leading city in the Southeast, saw an improvement of 5 points, earning new points for local government operations, buildings policies, energy and water utilities, and transportation policies. Charlotte made a strong showing as well, improving by nearly 8 points. Jacksonville, the lowest scoring city in the 2013 edition, saw a 50 percent increase in its score.

* All of the ranked cities, even the highest scorers, have significant room for improvement. Boston was the only city to earn over 80 points, and only 13 cities earned more than half of the possible points.

ACEEE research analyst David Ribeiro, the lead report author, said “Our findings show that cities continue to be laboratories of innovation when it comes to energy efficiency, with many pushing the envelope for more energy savings in the last few years. Cities are also improving their approaches when it comes to tracking and communicating their efforts to save energy. By capturing these efforts in the Scorecard we hope local leaders from cities of all sizes can learn best practices from each other and deliver the benefits of energy efficiency to their communities, such as a stronger economy and a cleaner environment.”

Martin J. Walsh, mayor of Boston stated, "It is an honor Boston has been recognized as America's most energy-efficient city. Our goal is to help Boston residents and businesses save energy and money, and through collaborative efforts with our utility partners, Eversource and National Grid, we are creating a thriving, healthy, and innovative Boston. I look forward to continuing these efforts for both our environment and residents."

Muriel Bowser, mayor of the District of Columbia remarked, "Being recognized as one of the top three most improved cities in ACEEE's City Energy Efficiency Scorecard shows that DC’s environmental policies are paying off. In the District, we know that being energy efficient is one of the most cost-effective ways to achieve our ambitious energy goals, cut carbon pollution, and create good paying jobs that put more residents on a pathway to the middle class. Simply put, energy efficiency is good for people, our communities, and the planet. The District of Columbia is thrilled to see our commitment to the triple bottom line highlighted by ACEEE."

Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles said: "I'm pleased to see that Los Angeles is one of the most-improved cities in the City Scorecard, with an increase of 20 points from last year. With the release of my Sustainable City pLAn and new bold goals for energy efficiency, transportation, and municipal operations, I am confident LA is on its way to the top of the list."

Kasim Reed, mayor of Atlanta said: “The City of Atlanta and its stakeholders are fully invested in making Atlanta a top-tier city for sustainability, and our ranking in the City Energy Efficiency Scorecard recognizes our achievements. Just recently, Atlanta became the first city in the Southeast to adopt a comprehensive energy policy that aims to significantly reduce citywide commercial energy use. Tailor-made for Atlanta, the ordinance is expected to spur the creation of more than 1,000 jobs a year in the first few years, as well as drive a 20% reduction in commercial energy consumption and reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 50% in 2030.”

In the five key areas covered by the report, the key findings are:

* Government operations. Leaders in efficiency in local government operations are Denver, New York City, and Phoenix, all of which have set policies to increase efficiency in city government, procurement, and asset management.

* Community initiatives. The top-scoring cities in community-wide initiatives are New York City and Boston. They both have systems to track progress toward efficiency-related goals for the whole community, and strategies to mitigate urban heat islands. They also have efficient distributed-energy systems, such as district energy and combined heat and power, and policies or programs to plan for future ones.

* Buildings. Leading cities in buildings policies include Boston, New York City, and Washington. These cities have adopted or advocated for stringent building energy codes, devoted resources to building code compliance, established requirements and incentives for efficient buildings, and increased the availability of information on energy use in buildings through benchmarking and transparency policies. Residents and business owners can also access programs that take a systemic, building-wide approach to retrofits and upgrades.

* Utilities. The leading cities in the energy utilities area are Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Minneapolis, and Chicago. Their energy efficiency programs offer high levels of savings. These cities also have productive relationships with their utilities in program implementation and access to energy data. Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, Atlanta, Fort Worth, and El Paso are the leading cities in tackling efficiency in their water systems.

* Transportation. Cities with the top transportation policy scores include Portland, Washington, Boston, and Seattle. Their initiatives include location-efficiency strategies, shifts to efficient modes of transportation, transit investments, efficient vehicles and vehicle infrastructure, and energy-efficient freight transport.

METHODOLOGY

ACEEE’s 2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard documents and compares actions cities can take to enable or improve energy efficiency. The report’s metrics are based on policy actions local governments can implement or influence and attempt to reflect the policy activity cities are taking. For the purposes of the Scorecard, ACEEE defines cities as the area within the political borders where a local government has direct policy authority. ACEEE included 51 cities in this edition of the Scorecard, up 17 from the 2013 edition of the report.

The report’s metrics measure policies and programs that achieve one or more of the following: directly reduce end-use energy consumption; accelerate the adoption of the most energy-efficient technologies; provide funding for energy efficiency programs; set long-term commitments to energy efficiency; establish or enforce building performance codes or standards; reduce market, regulatory, and information barriers to energy efficiency. All policy metrics analyzed are related to one of five policy areas identified above.
 

cover photo: Jared C. Benedict WikiCommons

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