Best Places to Find Energy Efficiency Work: A Closer Look at the ACEEE City Scorecard

Sept. 24, 2013
What cities offer the best opportunity to find energy efficiency work? A close look at the recent ACEEE city scorecard offers some hints.

Boston ranked first for energy efficiency in the recent city scorecard by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. But when it comes to city projects, is Boston the best place for energy efficiency companies to find work or sell products? Perhaps not.

ACEEE looked at a range of factors in evaluating, for the first time, how well the 34 most populous US cities advance energy efficiency. One of the subcategories was construction and procurement: How well do cities incorporate energy efficiency into their routine building and buying? For example, when a big city construction job comes up, is the city likely to include specific energy efficiency work in its solicitation for contractors?

While ACEEE scored Boston highest overall in the report, the city was only fifth for procurement and construction. Four cities tied for the top place in this category: Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; Portland and San Diego.  The bottom five were: Los Angeles, Baltimore, Memphis, Pittsburg and Detroit.

In evaluating procurement and constrution, the study looked specifically at how much the cities focus on energy efficiency in buying vehicles, installing public lights, constructing buildings and buying equipment. Does the city consider fuel efficiency when buying cars and trucks?  Is it installing electric vehicle charging stations? When the city replaces lights, must the new fixtures meet an efficiency standard? Are new public buildings Energy Star or LEED certified? Does city government take into account efficiency when it purchases appliances, computers or electronics?

Of course, all of the areas studied by ACEEE — not just procurement and construction —  say something about the city’s energy efficiency market. And procurement and construction accounted for only four points out of a possible 100. But it’s interesting to study this category because it seems that a city’s scoring here offers a strong hint about where energy efficiency companies should look for possible work.

The procurement and construction category was part of ACEEE’s larger evaluation of local government operations. ACEEE also scored the cities based on community wide initiatives, buildings policies, utility public benefits programs and transportation policies.

In the overall ranking, Portland, Oregon came in second to Boston. Third was a tie between New York City and San Francisco, which were followed by Seattle.  At the bottom: Tampa, Charlotte, Memphis, Detroit and Jacksonville.

Portland was the shining star in the categories of transportation and local government operations; Seattle in building policies; San Francisco and Boston for utility public benefits programs, and Austin for its energy efficiency policy.

“Our report shows that cities are laboratories of innovation for energy-saving solutions that directly benefit people where they live, work and play,” said Eric Mackres, ACEEE’s local policy manager and the report’s lead author. “Local governments have great influence over energy use in their communities and many have initiatives that result in significant energy and cost savings.”

All of cities, however, could improve significantly, ACEEE said. The organization plans to take another look at how they are doing in 2015.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

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