Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments

Local Utilities and Other Energy Efficiency Program Sponsors

Local governments can work with electric and gas utilities and other program sponsors—potentially including third-party efficiency program administrators, state energy offices, regional energy efficiency alliances, and other organizations—to design efficiency programs for homes and businesses, and to improve the efficiency of their own facilities.

Utilities and other third-party efficiency program administrators such as public benefit programs may also help local governments understand the energy sector and the energy consumption patterns in their jurisdictions. In addition, local governments can leverage the valuable relationships that utilities have with trade groups such as home builders, home energy raters, contractors, and energy service companies.

Program Options for Joint Local Government and Utility Action

Depending on regional circumstances, local governments can engage with utilities to design, develop, and roll out numerous efficiency programs and initiatives. The collaborations between local governments and utilities outlined below have been successfully implemented throughout the country. Examples include:

Appliance Recycling – Appliance recycling programs pick up and properly discard energy-intensive older refrigerator and freezer units. Local governments can offer the service to consumers for free or partner with utility programs to provide a nominal rebate on their next utility bill.

  • Austin Energy is the municipal utility serving the city of Austin, Texas. In response to the city council resolution prioritizing energy efficiency, Austin Energy partnered with the Responsible Appliance Disposal Program and Appliance Recycling Centers of America, Inc. to implement a turnkey refrigerator recycling program.

Building Codes and Appliance Standards– Establishing minimum energy efficiency specifications through codes and standards requires builders to make energy efficient investments at the time of construction or product purchasing. Local governments can work to improve compliance and enforcement, or to establish specifications that go beyond the code or standard.

  • Created in 2007 and updated in 2013, the City of Denver, Colorado, established a green building requirement for city-owned buildings. With the aim of leading by example, buildings constructed, renovated or maintained by the city are required to achieve LEED Gold and/or ENERGY STAR status. Xcel Energy offers energy efficiency programs and incentives to commercial building owners and managers.

Building Labeling/Disclosure – Local governments can enact policies (PDF) requiring that public and privately owned commercial buildings be benchmarked with utility data, and that the resulting metrics be disclosed to the public or included in real estate transactions.

  • Washington, DC requires that all commercial buildings over a certain size be benchmarked using Portfolio Manager and make the ENERGY STAR rating available to the public. The law requires the local electric and gas utilities to provide energy data to commercial customers. Increased demand for benchmarking may lead utilities to develop automated benchmarking infrastructure, which allows building owners to seamlessly access data on energy use to maintain their building's Portfolio Manager account.

Financial Incentives – Rebates and other financial incentives can encourage residents and business owners to make an investment in energy efficiency they may otherwise not consider. Local governments can help promote utility incentives through events or press coverage, or provide their own incentives to supplement those offered by the utility.

  • ComEd a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation serving northern Illinois, coordinated with Nicor Gas to better accommodate and align with the statewide Illinois Home Performance with ENERGY STAR Program, including offering an expanded list of rebates for air sealing, attic and wall insulation and duct sealing. The weatherization component delivered more than 700 projects in 2014, and homeowners were issued completion certificates.

Lead by Example/Non-Residential Programs – Local governments can achieve energy savings in their own facilities through a range of programs and activities. For example, municipalities can pursue retro–commissioning to improve energy efficiency and building operations. Utilities can help by providing retro–commissioning services or supplying energy use data to benchmark the buildings' baseline energy efficiency.

  • As a past example, the Association of Bay Area Governments' Energy Watch program, a partnership among local governments in the San Francisco area and the Pacific Gas and Electric utility, provides implementation assistance for retro–commissioning projects in government buildings and other community buildings.

Residential Retrofit Programs – Local governments and utilities can help build local contractor capacity to retrofit homes for energy savings. In many cases, they have started with home energy audits to help home owners identify problems and solutions for improving energy efficiency.

  • AEP Ohio and Columbia Gas of Ohio, the largest respective electric and gas utilities in the state, currently serve more than two million customers. Since 2010, the two utilities have worked together to bring a unified program to builders, contractors, and homebuyers across their service areas. They provide a range of training opportunities to builders, contractors, trade allies, and real estate professionals, including sessions on HVAC quality installation, technical support, and general sales training.

Residential Weatherization and Direct Install Programs – Local governments can partner with utilities and community organizations to support low-income weatherization or multifamily and small business direct install programs to improve energy efficiency in buildings.

  • Public Service Electric & Gas partners with low–income municipalities in New Jersey to help small businesses improve energy efficiency. The utility provides free energy audits and a report of results and suggested improvements. Authorized contractors working with the PSE&G Small Business Direct Install Program will perform upgrades and customers pay for 20 percent of the total cost through on-bill financing.

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Implementing Energy Efficiency Programs with Utilities

Local governments may be able to collaborate with several types of utility, state or regional energy efficiency programs to design efficiency programs for homes and businesses, and to improve the efficiency of their own facilities.

Utility–run Programs – Investor-owned, municipal, co-operative, and public district utilities (or other program sponsors) may offer their own set of energy efficiency programs under a variety of funding mechanisms. Local governments can identify their local electric and/or electric and gas utilities by visiting the Power Profiler and entering zip codes within their jurisdiction.

Public–Benefit Programs – Some states require investor-owned utilities to collect a surcharge from ratepayers that is used to fund programs such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, or low-income energy assistance. While utilities typically administer public-benefit programs, in some states the fund is administered by a nonprofit or contractor organization. Examples of this latter approach include the New Jersey Clean Energy Program, Wisconsin Focus on Energy, and the Energy Trust of Oregon. Local governments also may have an opportunity to access these funds directly to implement local energy efficiency initiatives.

Regional Energy Efficiency Organizations – Regional energy efficiency alliances engage utilities, local governments and school districts, nonprofit organizations, private business, and other organizations in region-wide energy efficiency initiatives and networking opportunities. Regional organizations include: Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership, Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, or the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. These organizations can help local governments tap into public-benefit or other regional programs in the utility sector.

Visit the Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) for up-to-date information on incentives and requirements for energy efficiency in each state.

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Utility Associations and Other Energy Efficiency Sponsors

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Tools and Resources


State Lead by Example (LBE) Guide
Governments lead by example (LBE) by establishing programs that achieve substantial energy cost savings within their own buildings and operations, and demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of clean energy to the larger market. EPA’s State Lead by Example Guide identifies best practices and state examples of clean energy activities; highlights the benefits and costs of taking action; and identifies issues, strategies, and resources for implementing key steps in the development of a comprehensive LBE program. While aimed primarily at state agencies, this guide may be useful to local governments as well.

State and Local Energy Efficiency Action Network (SEE Action)
SEE Action offers resources, discussion forums, and technical assistance to state and local decision makers as they provide low-cost, reliable energy to their communities through energy efficiency.

Tools and Training

ENERGY STAR Home Energy Yardstick
The Home Energy Yardstick is an online tool for individuals to compare their households' energy use to others across the country and to get recommendations for improvement.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager
Portfolio Manager is an online tool you can use to measure and track energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Use it to benchmark the performance of one building or a whole portfolio of buildings, all in a secure online environment.

ENERGY STAR Purchasing and Procurement
EPA offers purchasing and procurement resources designed to help procurement officials in smart purchasing decisions, including sample procurement language, savings calculators to assist in decision making, and qualified product lists.

ENERGY STAR Quantity Quotes
ENERGY STAR Quantity Quotes is a bulk purchasing tool for select ENERGY STAR products. Project managers can enter the type, quantity, and other information about the product requirements; interested manufacturers will respond with a price quote and other relevant information for completing the transaction.

ENERGY STAR Trainings for Local Governments and Schools
EPA offers schools and local governments training on ENERGY STAR tools and resources through no-cost online training sessions.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) State and Local Solution Center
The State and Local Solution Center provides resources to advance successful, high-impact clean energy policies, programs, and projects. By championing state and local leadership, addressing specific market barriers, and promoting standardized approaches, the Solution Center aims to help states, local governments, and K-12 schools take clean energy to scale in their communities.

Programs and Campaigns

Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR
Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR is a national campaign encouraging all Americans to make changes at home, at work, and in their communities with ENERGY STAR qualified products and energy–efficient practices.

ENERGY STAR for Government
ENERGY STAR for Government provides local governments a proven energy management strategy and no-cost tools to save energy and money and demonstrate environmental leadership.

Low Carbon IT Campaign (Power Management)
The ENERGY STAR Low Carbon IT Campaign is a nationwide effort to assist and recognize organizations for reducing the energy consumed by their computers and monitors.

Make a Cool Change Refrigerator Recycling Campaign
The ENERGY STAR Make a Cool Change: Recycle Your Old Fridge (or Freezer) Campaign is an engaging way to help citizens learn how much it costs to continue to operate an inefficient refrigerator or freezer and how they can properly recycle and replace them, if needed, with ENERGY STAR qualified models.

Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program
EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal Program is a voluntary partnership aimed at protecting the ozone layer and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. RAD partners include utilities, municipalities, retailers, manufacturers, universities, and other interested organizations.