Local actions make a difference. Cities worldwide account for most of the world’s energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions. Actions that local governments take are critical in addressing the energy and environmental challenges facing the United States and the world.
Local-level energy efficiency policies and programs have numerous benefits. They reduce energy costs, lower greenhouse gas emissions, improve health outcomes, and of particular importance to many local leaders, create jobs and spur economic development. A vital component of the clean energy economy, energy efficiency currently provides more than two million jobs across the country. Almost impossible to outsource, these jobs employ contractors and other professionals in the local community.
Cities and communities are increasingly prioritizing equity in program planning and delivery. While some exemplary partnerships and practices have emerged to center equity in policy development and implementation, cities have much to do to develop equitable outcomes for low-income communities and communities of color.
While state limits on jurisdictional authority mean that some cities have more power than others to control local policies, all local governments have some capacity to develop policies and programs to address their own energy use and energy use in their communities. Through land use and zoning laws, building codes, public finance, transportation investment, workforce development initiatives, and sometimes the supply of energy and water services, cities can increase energy efficiency within their borders. Local governments can also take advantage of utility programs and state and federal government programs.
The figure below shows some of the main approaches cities can pursue. As they take these actions, cities should work with their residents—especially community members from marginalized communities—to develop strategies informed by community input and designed to serve all residents.
ACEEE has several resources to help cities and local communities determine their next steps to increase energy efficiency: