Energy efficiency is always the first step toward making the planet cleaner and also a great way to make taking additional sustainability steps—like going solar—easier and less costly. This is especially important at the municipal level, because an energy-efficient municipality can save hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars by reducing their energy consumption before it even considers solar power.
Earlier this week, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released its 2013 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard showing how each of the country’s largest cities measure up in terms of reducing their energy footprint. It appears that out of the 34 most populous cities in the U.S., Boston is the most energy efficient.
"We couldn't be more proud of our progress in creating a greener, healthier city," said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. "Boston is a world-class city, and we know that our economic prosperity is tied to its 'greenovation,' which has helped create jobs and improve our bottom line. Reducing our energy use is just one smart step in improving the quality of life in Boston and around the world."
While Boston has done the most to reduce its energy footprint, earning a score of 76.75 out of 100 on the report card, other cities also achieved high ranks. Among them Portland, Ore., New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Austin. The report also found that other cities are continuing to do more to reduce their energy use. Therefore, cities like Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., will likely raise their scores on future versions of the ACEEE’s report. The city that ranked lowest on the list was Jacksonville, Fla.
The ACEEE said the report is the first time that cities were ranked purely on their energy efficiency efforts. The scoring criteria are based on how energy efficient a city’s infrastructure is, taking into account its: buildings, transportation, energy and water utility efforts, local government operations and any of its community-wide initiatives. The greatest number of points were awarded for a city's building policies (29 points) and its transportation policies (28 points).
While Boston led the way, it didn’t do so in all categories. For instance, according to the report, San Francisco tied Boston for the first spot in utility public benefits programs. Portland received the most points for its transportation and local government, while its northern neighbor, Seattle, ranked first for its building policies.
"The good news is that cities across the country are saving money, creating local jobs, and protecting the environment by implementing energy efficiency measures," said Steven Nadel, ACEEE's executive director.
"Our report shows that cities are laboratories of innovation for energy-saving solutions that directly benefit people where they live, work and play," added Eric Mackres, lead author and ACEEE's local policy manager. "Local governments have great influence over energy use in their communities and many have initiatives that result in significant energy and cost savings."
Looking ahead and assessing which efforts have been successful in the leading cities, the ACEEE also makes recommendations as to how a city can become more energy efficient and encourage their constituents to do the same. The report suggested that cities lead by example—adopting policies that support energy efficiency in new and existing buildings, and partnering with local utilities to promote and expand energy efficiency programs.