Strategies for States Assisting Municipalities
States can support clean energy and greenhouse gas reductions at the local level by pursuing the following strategies:
- Membership and/or pledge programs
- Technical assistance
- Information dissemination and educational resources
- Awards and recognition
A description of each strategy and corresponding examples are provided below.
Membership and/or pledge programs
State-sponsored membership programs for local governments can provide a framework for municipalities seeking to save energy and address climate change. These programs help local governments:
- Identify clean energy opportunities
- Set goals
- Implement projects and programs
- Track progress
In some cases, membership programs are administered through an interactive websites that allows local governments to register as members, access guidance and information resources, and track project results. Such programs frequently involve a pledge by local governments to achieve specified energy and environmental targets by a certain date, often with interim milestones.
Example: Sustainable Jersey, New Jersey
Sustainable Jersey was launched in 2009 to provide technical support and training to local governments, as well as access to financial incentives. To participate, municipalities pass a resolution to seek certification and identify a list of actions for implementation. They also create a Green Team and select at least two of four Priority Actions (i.e., energy audits for municipal facilities, municipal carbon footprint, sustainable land use, and water conservation).
Technical assistance to local governments is also provided by the state in the form of training sessions and a detailed website.
As of 2015, 48 towns have achieved Sustainable Jersey Certification.
Other examples of Membership Programs include:
- New York Climate Smart Communities program
- North Carolina Project Green
- Wisconsin Energy Independent Communities
- Cool California
Technical assistance is typically provided by states to local governments through staff or contractors with expertise in a particular area. This type of direct assistance can include:
- Training sessions
- Access to on-call professional engineers and planners
- Targeted presentations
- Guidance materials
- In-person consultations with advisory stakeholder groups
Information dissemination and educational resources
Information dissemination is an important and low-cost assistance strategy that states can offer their local governments. This type of assistance includes access to: guidance documents, toolkits, handbooks, templates, calculators, case studies, best practices, and Web links to other energy-efficiency or climate change-related programs.
Information dissemination activities often complement other types of state assistance to local governments. For example, Membership and Technical Assistance programs often include information resources as a key program element.
As part of its Energize Montana Information Resource website, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality provides information specifically targeted at local government facilities and operations. The Energy Efficiency in Your Government Web page provides links to energy-efficiency contractors, equipment and appliances, and building materials, as well as information handbooks, guidelines, and toolkits in a format geared towards local governments.
Other examples of information dissemination programs include:
- Pennsylvania Local Government and Municipal Energy Assistance
- New Jersey Office of Planning and Sustainable Communities
- Idaho Environmental Guide
Awards and recognition
Awards and recognition programs can be an effective mechanism to publicly highlight successful community-based sustainability efforts. Types of awards and recognition can include:
- Awards programs that nominate local government programs through a competitive selection process
- Case studies and success stories
- Articles or Web links showcasing local government initiatives