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The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released its 2020 City Clean Energy Scorecard. 

The scorecard analyses the efforts of 100 major US cities—home to 19% of the nation’s population—to make buildings and transportation more energy efficient and scale up the use of renewable energy.

The report provides a national measuring stick for climate progress and a roadmap for future improvements.

The study, which expanded from 75 cities last year, finds that 20 cities are now on track to meet their own community-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction goals—9 more than a year ago.

However, the remainder of the cities are not on track, haven’t provided adequate data, or even set a goal.

New York City has been ranked in first place owing to a new law ensuring upgrades to many inefficient buildings—followed by Boston and Seattle (tied for second place) and Minneapolis and San Francisco (tied for fourth place).

Washington, DC; Denver; Los Angeles; San José; and Oakland rounded out the top 10 highest-ranked cities, with San José and Oakland making the top 10 for the first time.

The top 10 cities embraced new actions. For instance, Boston and Los Angeles updated codes to require new buildings be pre-wired for electric vehicle charging stations at more parking spaces, and San Francisco convened a network to work with marginalized communities to establish equitable zero-emissions residential building strategies.

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Other key study findings include:

  • More cities are making efforts to increase community engagement with, and clean energy investments in, low-income communities and communities of colour.
  • Many cities are encouraging electric utilities and state regulators to increase the use of renewable energy in the power system.

This is evidenced by the fact that twenty-four cities submitted comments on public utility commission proceedings, entered into utility partnerships, enacted community choice aggregation programmes, or participated in planning efforts with utilities.

David Ribeiro, director of ACEEE’s local policy programme, said: “Many cities are really seizing the moment and embracing policies that help them fight climate change, while too many others are, frankly, doing very little.

“We want to show all the cities, even the leaders, the further steps they can take to cut carbon emissions most effectively and equitably.

“City budgets are under enormous strain. Clean energy policies are part of the solution because they create jobs while reducing energy costs for households, businesses, and city government.

“By keeping up and expanding clean energy efforts, cities can support the economic recovery while combatting the climate crisis.”

The scorecard ranks cities in five policy areas: 

  • Local government operations. Austin and Boston tied for first spot. Each is on track to achieve its greenhouse gas mitigation goals for government operations and has policies to increase energy efficiency in purchasing decisions, construction practices, and asset management. Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, tied for second.
  • Community-wide initiatives. Washington DC was the leading city, adopting several greenhouse gas mitigation and clean energy goals informed by the community. Denver, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis tied for second.
  • Buildings policies. New York earned the most points and was the only city to receive all possible points for city policies encouraging or requiring efficiency improvements in existing buildings. Seattle, Boston, and Chicago were the next-highest scorers.
  • Energy and water utilities. Boston, Chula Vista (California), Minneapolis, and San Diego tied for the highest score. These cities and the utilities serving them scored well across metrics for efforts to help customers improve energy and water efficiency, as well as the utilities’ efforts to embrace renewable energy.
  • Transportation policies. San Francisco took the top spot, earning points for efforts to increase compact, mixed-use communities, particularly near transit hubs to reduce vehicle miles traveled. Washington DC, New York, Portland, and Seattle followed closely behind.

Read more about the report.