How States and Cities Can Unlock Local Clean Energy

Date: 2 Jun 2017 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Yesterday’s news about the Paris Climate Accords has provoked a groundswell of commitments for local action on climate change. But what can cities actually do in the absence of federal support?

A lot.

In fact, with the help of states, cities have many avenues to boost their economies and drive down energy costs with local clean power. We’re sharing a preview of our Building Local Power Policy Agenda for energy today, inspired by the outpouring of support in the past 24 hours.

Building Local Power: An Energy Democracy Policy Agenda

This policy agenda highlights rules that can be adopted at the local and state level to capture more of the community’s economic opportunity at home. They’re organized by level of mastery required, so build your local power chops today!

City rules

101 level

  • Adopt a resolution to get your community to 100% renewable energy by 2050 (or sooner)
  • Minimize zoning and permitting costs for renewable energy systems
    • Sample ordinance: Lancaster, CA
    • Examples: [from community power map]
  • Replace all public lighting with LEDs
    • Sample ordinance: New York, NY
    • Examples: Oahu, Sioux Falls, New York
  • Commit to developing local renewable energy to serve local energy needs
    • Sample ordinance: Taos, NM
    • Examples: Taos, NM

201 level

  • Put solar on every possible public building, and maximize energy efficiency of existing and future public buildings
  • Commit to electrification of city fleet vehicles
    • Sample ordinance: Austin, TX
    • Examples: Austin, TX
  • Have the city host community solar projects for residents and businesses
  • Adopt the most efficient building energy code allowed by state law (where allowed)

301 level

  • Study and adopt community choice aggregation
  • Require solar installations on all new buildings
    • Sample ordinance: San Francisco, CA;
    • Examples: Lancaster, CA; San Francisco, CA; Sebastopol, CA
  • Require energy disclosure upon rental or sale of single-family housing
    • Sample ordinance: Austin, TX
    • Examples:
    • Require energy disclosure upon rental or sale of multi-family housing
      • Sample ordinance: Minneapolis, MN
      • Examples: Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Washington, DC
    • Require minimum energy efficiency investment as part of rental licensing
    • Implement or increase utility franchise fee to finance energy savings programs
      • Sample ordinance: Edina, MN
      • Examples: Edina, MN


    State rules

    For a map showing how states can help or hinder local clean energy action, see our Community Power Map

    101 level

    • Create a “stretch” building energy code that allows cities to go beyond the state minimum standard, or grant cities flexibility to set the most aggressive standards
      • Sample law: Massachusetts
      • Examples: Massachusetts, Texas, Arizona, Missouri, Idaho

    201 level

    301 level

    • Adopt community choice aggregation, allow communities to choose their electricity suppliers to save money and obtain more renewable energy
    • Create a community renewable energy policy that allows electric customers to collectively own and share the energy from a renewable energy project
      • Sample law: Minnesota
      • Examples: Minnesota, Maryland, Colorado


    This article originally posted at For timely updates, follow John Farrell or Karlee Weinmann on Twitter or get the Energy Democracy weekly update.

    Photo credit: City of Boulder, CO

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John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.