From the ground up: Finding innovative ways to promote energy efficiency

The original version of this blog post appeared on the ACEEE blog.

Local municipalities and community organizations are adopting policies, strategies, and partnerships that promote energy efficiency, save money, and reduce pollution–despite a lack of comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation at the federal level.

This increased level of activity in promoting energy efficiency at the local level is the focus of a white paper released today by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the MIT Energy Efficiency Strategy Project, The Role of Local Governments and Community Organizations as Energy Efficiency Implementation Partners: A Review of Trends and Case Studies. (Read the full white paper here).

This white paper explains ways that local governments can support energy efficiency efforts through enabling policies and program partnerships:

Enabling policies are local regulatory requirements or incentives put in place by a municipality to improve market conditions for energy efficiency investments. Such policies can be implemented with or without coordination with utilities, and can include building energy codes, energy use disclosure requirements, innovative financing mechanisms, and non-financial incentives, such as expedited building permitting.

Program partnerships are arrangements between one or more energy utilities and one or more local government and/or community organizations to implement an energy efficiency program. Partnerships usually identify specific contributions and roles for each of the parties involved that can improve a program’s delivery, participation, and energy savings.

[pulledquote]Local municipalities and community organizations are adopting policies, strategies, and partnerships that promote energy efficiency, save money, and reduce pollution[/pulledquote]

MAPC is using these tactics to promote innovative clean energy programs in the Boston region. In the fall, we launched our Local Energy Action Program (LEAP). Through LEAP, MAPC works with communities to plan for and launch innovative and financially sustainable projects that reduce energy use and greenhouse gas.
In each participating community, MAPC is working to build local capacity to support long-range energy goals and strategies. We are bringing together municipal leadership, utilities, community groups, local businesses, and residents to establish enabling policies and program partnerships that support local investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

ACEEE is also expanding its suite of technical assistance resources designed for local governments and other local stakeholders. These tools include the Local Energy Efficiency Policy Calculator, or LEEP-C (a quantitative analysis tool to help localities decide which energy efficiency policies make the most sense for them); a series of detailed case studies on local programs and policies from around the country; state and local toolkits; and new publications on topics relevant to local stakeholders being added frequently.

This white paper on local implementation is the first in a series of three local energy publications to be released by ACEEE over the coming months. The next report will review the recent successes and challenges of communities undertaking strategic energy planning. The third report will highlight the variety of sustainable funding options available to local governments to enable them to continue leadership in energy efficiency in the face of expiring federal stimulus dollars.

Erin Brandt, MAPC’s Energy Planner & Eric Mackres, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy