Cities take center stage in climate change partnerships, policy, and action
Community resilience has become a top tier priority for many local governments in the face of climate change, aging infrastructure, and an evolving energy landscape. American cities and their leaders have emerged as pioneers in the fight against climate change by adopting ambitious carbon reduction goals, implementing building efficiency policies, and reimagining the way energy is produced and used in their communities.
Cities as front lines of energy innovation
Recognizing that by 2030, 87% of U.S. energy will be consumed in cities, the DOE is helping cities and counties accelerate clean energy innovation. State and local leaders have already been thinking outside of the box in collaboration with the building community to develop cost-effective solutions that equal greater energy savings. Mayors are embracing the clean energy revolution and propelling it forward by passing progressive legislation to facilitate energy savings, improve resiliency of power systems, and make communities more economically competitive.
Through DOE's Better Buildings Challenge, more than 40 cities and counties have reduced energy consumption in their buildings by addressing financing, organizational, and informational barriers. Savings has exceeded $24 million since the program began in 2011, and cities are seeing significant transformation and growth as a result. Take Atlanta, which has more than doubled its energy savings commitments from private sector companies as well as expanded to the multifamily sector, growing its square footage to 100 million from 50 million in four years. On the West Coast, LA, San Diego, and Chula Vista are well-known now for building bridges between technology and buildings, creating a robust community of professionals who can take city energy performance to
the next level.
DOE has developed a growing portfolio of programs and resources to assist local governments in their quest to harness clean energy to improve the energy independence, public health, and economic development of their communities.
Through programs like SolSmart, Climate Action Champions, and Clean Cities, DOE provides access to technical assistance through National Labs, guidance documents, replicable best practices, and tools that build local capacity to plan for and implement clean energy solutions. For instance, SolSmart provides communities with fully funded, experienced staff to help improve local government programs and processes such as reviewing and providing feedback on zoning requirements and streamlining the permitting process for solar PV systems. While the number of programs and resources available to local governments has grown exponentially over the last few years, there was not a holistic platform to advance integrated solutions across clean energy technologies and leverage the combined efforts of government, nonprofit, philanthropic, and private sectors—until now. Now local governments have a one-stop shop to access information on existing clean energy programs and a designated space to discuss and advance their goals with peers, DOE, and other impactful organizations supporting local outcomes.
The Better Communities Alliance
The Better Communities Alliance (BCA) aims to deliver energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation solutions that create cleaner, smarter, and more prosperous communities. Forty cities and counties representing more than 40 million Americans have joined BCA since its launch in 2016. The BCA has also partnered with nearly 30 national organizations that have pledged to work with DOE to align their resources and expertise with the clean energy needs of communities. Ranging from national philanthropic grant makers like The Kresge Foundation, Energy Foundation, and Surdna Foundation; local government associations and networks such as the National League of Cities and C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group; global engineering firms like Arup and Hatch; consumer product firms like Philips Lighting; and energy leaders like American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, this group will work with DOE to accelerate the pace of clean energy innovation locally.
BCA has also launched a web portal with programmatic information, technical assistance opportunities, and resource databases from across DOE’s local government programs. BCA will work with each community to identify goals and curate a customized portfolio of tools, guidance documents, and technical assistance for their needs. This includes tailored analytical support through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to enhance use of data in achieving energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation outcomes through policy and planning. DOE will also co-host workshops with National Labs, affiliate organizations, and local leaders to discuss opportunities in key areas and strategize around integrated solutions.
The future is clean
Mayors across the U.S. are launching multi-pronged efforts to achieve ambitious climate and energy goals. The bold leadership, thoughtful planning, and notable innovation we are seeing at the local level are helping to illuminate the path to a cleaner, resilient, more prosperous tomorrow.
Sarah Zaleski is a policy advisor for the energy department focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Monica Kanojia is a consultant with the U.S. Department of Energy.