Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments

The Small Cities Climate Action Partnership

Learn about other climate showcase communities.

El Cerrito, Albany, Piedmont, and San Pablo, California

Federal Funding: $497,488
Project Timeline: February 2010 – December 2012

Project Summary

Actions taken by small communities are critical to achieving greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions. Over two-thirds of U.S. citizens live in jurisdictions with populations under 100,000. These small communities can move quickly to execute plans with the proper resources. At the same time, their small scale and limited staff and resources hinder action. To overcome these obstacles, the City of El Cerrito partnered with Albany, Piedmont, and San Pablo to implement the Small Cities Climate Action Partnership (ScCAP). This partnership achieved GHG reductions in small cities by:

  • implementing mechanisms for monitoring energy use, and installing efficiency upgrades,
  • developing Climate Action Plans for each city in the partnership,
  • promoting participation in existing programs, and
  • creating ways to replicate the program.

Under the ScCAP, all four cities have worked together to share their work, processes, and best practices as they implemented various energy efficiency projects and policies. Each partner city has implemented municipal energy efficiency projects, ranging from power strip/occupancy sensors to HVAC retrofits in City Hall and other municipal facilities. The commercial and residential energy efficiency retrofit rebate programs are winding down. As of December 2012, 74 businesses had retrofitted their lighting and 61 homes have completed comprehensive weatherization work. All utility accounts in the cities of Albany, El Cerrito, Piedmont, and San Pablo have been entered into EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The cities entered into an agreement with a solar company and are continuing to develop renewable energy projects. The solar contractor installed solar panels at multiple municipal facilities and is expected to help make El Cerrito’s Recycling Center a zero-net energy consumption facility. San Pablo and El Cerrito have finalized and adopted their Climate Action Plans that include targets to reduce GHG emissions by 15% by 2020 and 30% by 2035. Lastly, the cities finalized the Energy Action Plans developed by the Strategic Energy Innovations staff. The cities held two workshops on lessons learned from the ScCAP programs, and considered ways to expand ScCAP and develop a statewide network of small communities in California to meet quarterly and discuss climate and energy issues.

The partnership developed management systems in each city to monitor energy use and identify energy efficiency upgrades. The cities established a permanent Capital Improvement Fund to equitably allocate energy efficiency projects, and each partner developed systems to monitor energy use to identify energy efficiency and energy investment opportunities.

The benefits of the program included GHG emission reductions from direct investment in municipal and community retrofits. The partnership developed capacity combining common activities across the cities, by facilitating collaboration between each city and by acting as a regional advocate for small communities. It has saved energy, reduced air pollution, and promoted investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Top of Page

Community Characteristics 

Population:                              24,000 (El Cerrito)

                                              17,000 (Albany);

                                              11,000 (Piedmont);

                                              30,000 (San Pablo)

Area:                                       2 to 4 square miles each

Government Type:                    Four cities

Community Type:                     Urban

Median household income:        $70,000 to $78,000

Top of Page


Final Results

Projected Cumulative Results  

Annual GHG Reductions

431.0 mt CO2e

750 mt CO2e

Annual Electricity Savings

1,456 MWh

544 MWh

Annual Economic Savings



Top of Page

Lessons Learned

  • The cities overcame barriers to participation in existing energy efficiency and transportation programs in part by identifying existing programs, recruited these programs to provide services in their jurisdictions, distributed marketing materials to increase public participation, and developed a micro-grant fund to promote priority reduction opportunities.

Top of Page


  • To promote replication of the program, the partnership established guidelines for collaboration and institutionalized climate management internally in each city. They continued to seek funding and establish relationships through networking and technical assistance programs.

Top of Page