Start spreading the news: New York City ranked second in the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s (ACEEE) 2017 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released this week. ACEEE has published this report detailing the energy efficiency efforts of cities across the country every other year for the last six years. And this year, not only have scores improved in most cities—you can check out where your city stands here—but among the cities that have stepped up their energy efficiency game, the median increase in score was a whopping eight points on ACEEE’s 100-point scale.
More than 30 of the country’s 51 biggest cities have improved their approaches to and implementation of energy efficiency, resulting in many benefits for their residents in addition to helping to fight climate change: reduced energy bills, decreased pollution and improved health, job creation, and a more resilient electric grid.
Given the tremendous challenges we currently face on climate and clean energy at the federal level, utilizing cities’ experiences and expertise is especially important now. The cities in this report, after all, are leaders in their regions and are home to 15 percent of the country’s population; and, 55 percent of all Americans reside in the greater metropolitan areas they anchor. In other words, what cities do—how they lead, how they shape markets using smart policies—matters a lot. ACEEE’s scorecard creates a competition among cities and helps them understand what policies and programs offer them the most bang for their buck.
Toward that end, the ACEEE Scorecard ranks cities based on:
- their building efficiency policies;
- their transportation policies;
- the efficiency programs of their energy and water utilities;
- the efficiency of their municipal operations; and,
- their community-wide initiatives.
As a New Yorker, I’m particularly proud that our city maintains its number two ranking in the nation, thanks to an approach that has served as a model for cities across the country and around the world. New York’s score of 79.5 is the result of a number of pioneering efficiency efforts over the last several years in the Big Apple, including mandating the benchmarking of energy use in large buildings, which provides owners with an energy performance baseline and helps them to better manage energy use and identify efficiency opportunities. (Turns out, all on its own, benchmarking reduces energy use by between 3 and 8 percent over a two- to four-year period, a new report finds.) Other policies and programs that have put New York near the top of the chart include:
- The City’s greenhouse gas reduction target, codified in law in 2014, to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050, as well as the City’s goals and efforts tied to installing “cool roofs” to mitigate the urban heat island effect;
- A beefed-up Energy Conservation Code that will make new commercial and residential buildings significantly more efficient;
- Expansion of the trailblazing Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, so that it now requires mid-sized buildings to annually benchmark and report their energy use;
- The NYC Retrofit Accelerator, a one-stop shop to help building owners navigate the process of improving the energy and water efficiency of their buildings; and,
- The City’s efforts to “lead by example,” with significant, comprehensive steps to manage and reduce energy use in municipal buildings.
Of course, New York’s extensive public transportation infrastructure, and its promotion of walking, and increasingly, bicycling, among other policies, brings us to second place in the transportation efficiency category.
New York City is not the only scorecard star. The highest ranked city—Boston—and many of the cities in the Top 10 and Top 20 are participants in NRDC’s and the Institute for Market Transformation’s City Energy Project, which seeks to make American cities healthier and more prosperous by improving the energy efficiency of their buildings. Those efforts are clearly paying off.
Indeed, when cities across the U.S. compete for the title of most energy-efficient, everybody wins.
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