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New York City tops US energy efficient and clean energy cities

02 December 2020 Kevin Adler

New York City is ranked as the most energy-efficient US city in the "2020 Clean City Energy Scorecard," released on 6 October by the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE).

Boston and Seattle tied for second place, and Minneapolis and San Francisco tied for fourth place in the annual update.

ACEEE analyzed the efforts of 100 major US cities—home to 19% of the nation's population—to make buildings and transportation more energy efficient and scale up the use of renewable energy.

The rankings are based on five criteria: local government operations; community-wide initiatives; buildings policies; energy and water utilities' efficiency; and transportation policies.

"The report found that 20 cities are now on track to meet their own community-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction goals—which is nine more than a year ago. Yet the remainder of the cities are not on track, haven't provided adequate data, or have not set a goal," ACEEE said.

Among the report's findings:

  • Many cities are encouraging electric utilities and state regulators to increase the use of renewable energy in the power system. "Twenty-four cities submitted comments on public utility commission proceedings, entered into utility partnerships, enacted community choice aggregation programs, or participated in planning efforts with utilities," ACEEE said.
  • Washington, DC; Denver; and three California cities, Los Angeles San José, and Oakland, rounded out the top 10, with San José and Oakland making the top 10 for the first time. "Boston and Los Angeles updated codes to require new buildings be pre-wired for electric vehicle charging stations at more parking spaces, and San Francisco convened a network to work with marginalized communities to establish equitable zero-emissions residential building strategies," ACEEE said.
  • St. Paul, Minnesota (#16) was the most-improved city, taking steps to improve efficiency of existing buildings, reduce total vehicle miles traveled, and embrace renewable energy. St. Louis (#28) was the second-most-improved city; in April, it became the third city in the country to require large existing buildings to meet a performance standard, which will drive energy efficiency upgrades.
  • More cities are making efforts to increase community engagement with, and clean energy investments in, low-income communities and communities of color. "Washington, DC, formed an equity advisory group to develop recommendations to be incorporated in its clean energy plans. But nearly all cities have substantial room to ramp up their efforts," ACEEE said.

Despite progress by many cities, ACEEE painted a mixed picture overall. "The increasing policy activity is encouraging, but cities—most especially those low in our rankings—still have a long way to go in adopting policies and tracking their performance. For example, 63 of the 100 cities assessed had community-wide goals to reduce GHG emissions, but only 34 had data allowing us to track progress toward those goals," it said.

"Recent events—namely the public health and economic devastation wrought by COVID-19, as well as the growing outrage over racial disparities and their impacts on communities of color—could cause policy priorities to change as cities address these challenges. Consequently, the outlook for clean energy policy adoption is more uncertain now than it was at the beginning of 2020."

The 2020 City Scorecard was compiled as of 1 May 2020, so it does not account for the impact of COVID-19 and the US recession. "As local leadership responds to these challenges, clean energy policy will, we hope, remain a high priority. As cities focus on economic recovery in the context of COVID-19, energy efficiency and renewable energy remain a crucial strategy for creating jobs and keeping investment within local communities. Furthermore, a closer focus on equitable planning and program delivery can yield benefits that have historically been unavailable to communities of color," ACEEE concluded.

Posted 02 December 2020 by Kevin Adler, Editor, Climate & Sustainability Group, IHS Markit

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