For the second time in three years, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) named Boston the most energy-efficient city in the U.S.
BOSTON STRONG: For the second time in three years, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) named Boston the most energy-efficient city in the U.S. (PHOTO COURTESY OF BERT KAUFMANN)

WASHINGTON — Worldwide, 3.5 billion people live in cities. The U.N. predicts the world population to double by 2050. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), two-thirds of global energy consumption and 80 percent of the U.S.’s energy consumption occurs in cities. These municipalities’ large shares of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions mean energy-efficiency actions in these urban areas by local governments are critical in addressing the nation’s and the world’s energy and environmental challenges. Saving energy can make communities more resilient while protecting human health and the environment. Many local governments around the U.S. are committed to efficiency. Cities can influence energy use in their communities through land use and zoning, building codes, public finance, transportation investment, economic and workforce development, and, in many cases, the provision of water and energy.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) second biennial 2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard measures the progress of city policies and programs that save energy while benefiting the environment and promoting economic growth. The scorecard ranked 51 large U.S. cities for their energy-efficiency efforts across five policy areas: local government operations, community-wide initiatives, buildings, energy and water utilities, and transportation.

Boston once again earned the top spot in 2015. Beantown received 82 out of a possible 100 points, an improvement of more than 5 points from its 2013 score. Boston scored well across all policy areas, and it excelled in both buildings and in energy and water utilities. Boston has expanded its incentives and financing opportunities for energy-efficient buildings and implemented energy benchmarking requirements. The city continues to have strong utility partnerships, including the Renew Boston Initiative.

Joining Boston in the top five are New York City; Washington, District of Columbia; San Francisco; and Seattle. All have wide-ranging efficiency policies and programs and a history of implementing efficiency initiatives. They all have closed the gap with Boston by scoring at least 75 points. The top five cities were separated by 11.5 points in the 2013 Scorecard. This year, they are separated by seven points.

Rounding out the top 10 are Chicago; Minneapolis; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; and Denver. Denver entered the top 10 for the first time. Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle were the most-improved cities compared to the last edition, with many showing double-digit scoring improvements.

New to Scorecard were Salt Lake City; Milwaukee; Cleveland; Kansas City, Missouri; Las Vegas; Cincinnati; Orlando, Florida; Providence, Rhode Island; Richmond, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; Hartford, Connecticut; Virginia Beach, Virginia; New Orleans; Raleigh, North Carolina; Birmingham, Alabama; and Oklahoma City.

Scoring was based on metrics that reflect the adoption and implementation of specific government policies, actions, or public services that can improve energy efficiency. Although the policy environments in cities vary considerably, our metrics capture a broad range of city actions. They 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 mandatory or voluntary performance codes or standards; and reduce market, regulatory, and information barriers to energy efficiency. The maximum number of total points a city can earn across all areas is 100. The distribution of points among policy areas remains the same as it was in the previous scorecard edition.

The scorecard suggests cities that want to improve their energy efficiency and ranking to lead by example by improving efficiency in local government operations and facilities. This can be achieved by integrating energy efficiency into the day-to-day activities of local governments, adopting policies and programs to save energy in public-sector buildings and fleets, and encouraging changes in employee behavior and standard practices such as procurement. Cities should also adopt guidelines and policies to direct investment toward more energy-efficient infrastructure as well as adopt energy-savings targets. Cities also need to actively manage, track, and communicate energy performance and enable broader access to energy use information.

To improve the efficiency of new buildings, cities can ensure that building energy code enforcement and compliance activities are effective and well-funded. If the city has authority under state law, adopt more stringent building energy codes; if not, advocate for the state to do so. To improve energy efficiency in existing buildings, cities should encourage better integration of energy information into local real estate markets through energy benchmarking, rating, or transparency. They can also provide incentives for efficient buildings, require energy audits, and implement energy-performance requirements for certain building types.

Information provided courtesy of ACEEE. For more information, visit

Publication date: 6/22/2015

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