A new report from the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) looks at 20 American cities and finds that they employ a variety of energy-related actions, policies and programs to improve their energy usage. The most common tactics relate to i) building codes and efficiency certifications; ii) land use planning to cut down on car traffic; iii) municipal operational changes; and iv) more renewable power and local power generation.
The report, “City-Level Energy Decision Making: Data Use in Energy Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation in U.S. Cities,” finds that cities are most successful in their efforts if support for a climate action plan and energy efficiency comes from the highest levels of local government. A focus on energy savings and efficiency may facilitate progress in communities that are reluctant to directly address carbon emissions and climate change.
The report says cities throughout the United States face similar circumstances (e.g., budget shortfalls, staff capacity limitations and political leadership shifts) that threaten to stall the implementation and measurement of energy actions. There are ways, however, to improve energy decision making despite these challenges. Developing or refining data collection protocols, collaborating with community stakeholders, empowering city departments to “own” energy initiatives, joining energy challenges and competitions, and fostering relationships with utilities and public utility commissions are examples of effective strategies, according to sampled cities, for advancing city energy-related goals.