Boston remains the top U.S. city for energy efficiency – receiving 84.5 out of a possible 100 points in the third edition of the City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released on May 10 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. That’s an improvement of 2.5 points over its score in the 2015 study.
The researchers looked at 51 metropolitan areas for the 2016 scorecard. Following Boston, the top ten U.S. cities for energy efficiency were found to be New York City (#2), Seattle (#3), Los Angeles (tied for #4), Portland (tied for #4), Austin (#6), Chicago (#7), Washington, DC (#8), Denver (tied for #9), and San Francisco (tied for #9).
Based on a 25-point jump from the last edition of the Scorecard in 2015, Los Angeles was the most-improved city. It entered the top five—and the top 10—for the first time. San Diego, Kansas City, and Phoenix represent the second, third, and fourth most-improved cities, respectively. Seven other cities, including Orlando, showed double-digit improvements since the last Scorecard was issued.
The five cities most in need of improvement on energy efficiency are Hartford (#47), Memphis (#48), Detroit (#49), Oklahoma City (#50), and Birmingham (#51).
Additional findings of the 2017 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard include the following:
- Phoenix is the fourth most-improved city, with a gain of 13 points. The city increased its score in community-wide initiatives because of its adoption of the 2050 Environmental Sustainability goals, which include both energy savings and climate goals.
- Orlando is another of 11 cities that improved by at least 10 points. It aims to improve efficiency in existing buildings by benchmarking its energy use and making the data transparent and accessible. Austin, Philadelphia, Denver, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Portland, and the four most-improved cities mentioned above round out this group.
- Los Angeles is home to a new Existing Building Energy and Water Efficiency program, which requires an energy audit, retrofit, and benchmarking for many commercial and multifamily buildings, as well as water efficiency measures.
- San Diego passed a Climate Action Plan, which established goals to reduce energy use by 15 percent in select homes; and to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2020.
“Across the nation, cities are taking steps to save energy, and they are creating more economically vibrant and resilient communities in the process,” said ACEEE Senior Researcher David Ribeiro, the lead report author. “More than half, – [or] 32 of the 51 cities – improved their scores from 2015 to 2017, with several making substantial point increases. More cities are requiring building owners to benchmark and report buildings’ energy use, updating building energy codes, and setting community-wide goals to save energy and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. We also see a new set of cities emerging as leaders for energy efficiency, knocking on the door of the top ten.”
In the five key areas covered by the report, the key findings are:
- Local Government Operations. Leaders in efficiency in local government operations are Denver, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, and Washington, DC. All have policies to increase efficiency in city government, procurement, and asset management.
- Community-Wide Initiatives. The top-scoring cities in community-wide initiatives are Austin, Minneapolis, Portland, and Washington, D.C. They have efficiency-related goals for the entire community and strategies to mitigate urban heat islands. They also have policies or programs to plan for future combined heat and power or district energy systems.
- Building Policies. Leading cities in building policies include Boston, Austin, Los Angeles, and New York City. 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.
- Energy and Water Utilities. The cities with leading energy utilities are Boston and Providence. The energy efficiency programs of the utilities serving these cities offer high levels of savings and reach underserved markets, including low-income and multifamily households. Austin, Boston, Columbus, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Diego are the leading cities in tackling efficiency in their water systems and water uses. Utility customers in these cities have access to efficiency programs designed to save water and energy simultaneously.
- Transportation Policies. Cities with the top scores for transportation policies include Portland and New York City. Their initiatives include strategies to make their cities more compact and closer to transit options, shifts to efficient modes of transportation, transit investments, efficient vehicles and vehicle infrastructure, and energy-efficient freight transport.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D) said: “Being recognized as America’s most energy-efficient city is an accomplishment that should be shared by all Bostonians. Whether you’re a resident who lowered their monthly utility bill through Renew Boston or an owner of one of our city’s leading green buildings, we should all be proud of our success to reduce energy and save money.”
ACEEE’s 2017 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard includes the same 51 cities as it did in 2015. ACEEE researchers assessed the central city of each of the nation’s 50 most populous metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs)—excluding San Juan, Puerto Rico—as well as El Paso and Fort Worth. The City Scorecard includes cities that have large populations within their borders (a median population of 632,309, with 124,006 in the smallest city) and are central cities in an MSA with a large population (a median of 2,384,075, and none smaller than 1,145,647). These cities alone make up 14.9 percent of the population of the United States.