Developments in Local Energy Efficiency Policy: a Review of Recent Progress and Research


Purpose of review

This review analyzes trends in the increasing number of local energy efficiency activities through a study of the findings of the 2017 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard. The review also examines recent literature to provide a greater understanding of select policies’ potential effectiveness and outcomes, as well as possible policy improvements.

Recent Findings

Within the last few years, municipalities have made more commitments to reduce energy use and have taken more action to achieve their goals. Cities have set energy savings goals, adopted building energy codes, collaborated with their utilities to deliver energy efficiency programs, and more. Some of the increased activity is due to a broader focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but cities continue to use energy efficiency for achieving other priorities too, including lowering government expenditures and increasing economic development. A review of recent research also shows the importance of evaluating local energy efficiency efforts. Further research will provide better data on the energy savings potential of these activities and provide insight on potential improvements in policy planning and implementation.


The results indicate that local policymakers have expanded their focus on building energy benchmarking and transparency as well as mode-shift strategies for transportation, though transportation policies are less of a focus than those aimed at energy use in buildings.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    The report focuses on the central cities of the 50 most populous US metro areas excluding San Juan. It also assesses Fort Worth and El Paso. Both cities were included in earlier editions of the scorecard that used a different methodology for selecting cities.

  2. 2.

    C40 is a network of populous global cities who have made commitments to mitigate the impacts of climate change.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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    City of Los Angeles. “Existing Buildings Energy and Water Efficiency Programs.” Accessed 9 Jan 2018.

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    Institute for Market Transformation. “Map: U.S. Building Benchmarking and Transparency Policies.” Washington, DC: IMT. Accessed 9 Jan 2018.

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The author is grateful for the assistance of Heather DeLucia and Fernando Castro-Alvarez in gathering research for the literature review. He is also appreciative of Lauren Ross’ thoughts on the original manuscript. Many thanks are also due to the co-authors of the 2017 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, whose research formed the basis of this article: Tyler Bailey, Ariel Drehobl, Stefen Samarripas, Mary Shoemaker, Shruti Vaidyanathan, Jen King, Weston Berg, and Fernando Castro-Alvarez.

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Correspondence to David Ribeiro.

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Conflict of Interest

David Ribeiro reports that the Kresge and Surdna Foundation funded the 2017 City Scorecard. The Scorecard’s research served as the foundation for this article.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on End-Use Efficiency

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Ribeiro, D. Developments in Local Energy Efficiency Policy: a Review of Recent Progress and Research. Curr Sustainable Renewable Energy Rep 5, 109–115 (2018).

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  • Local energy efficiency
  • Benchmarking
  • Building energy codes
  • Urban transportation
  • Smart cities
  • Urban climate governance