September 16, 2014

EE2020 – A Mayor’s Role in Fighting Climate Change

Use the Bully Pulpit - Mayors can leverage the power of their office to draw attention to energy consumption and climate change. From winning coverage in the local media to communicating with residents via municipal channels to encouraging opinion leaders to take part, people listen to city leaders. They can hammer home the importance of messages such as:

  • Energy efficiency reduces energy costs for local businesses and residents.
  • Energy efficiency keeps dollars in the community.
  • Energy efficiency initiatives improve the local building stock and raise property values.
  • Energy efficiency initiatives harness additional resources from utility programs, increase local influence over their operations, and position the community for state and federal grants.
  • Building upgrades = new jobs

Create example by retrofitting city buildings - Mayors can lead the charge on energy efficiency by making the decision to first upgrade municipal buildings.   That will give you leverage in negotiating with utilities and/or energy service companies (ESCOs) that will be key partners throughout the city.

Setting Goals – Mayors can set the tone of the campaign by committing to energy savings goals. There are a variety of ways to identify goals, including: adopting state or utility goals; setting targets related to carbon or energy reduction; or picking a well-defined achievement to reach in either the short or long term, such as homes signed up for retrofits.  The goal might be city-wide or based on industry sectors, depending on the city’s energy profile.  Whatever goal is chosen, the priority should be to pick something inspirational to engage the community and, most importantly, to allow for measurement.

Convening Authority: Building partnerships  – The Mayor’s office is in a unique position to engage and challenge the business community to fix its buildings.  People listen to the mayor and that leadership translates to leverage in linking businesses to utilities and ESCOs or other energy efficiency contractors and recruiting support from community groups.

Regulatory Authority – Mayors can set policies that advance energy efficiency.  Some examples include:

  • authorizing PACE financing, which makes upgrades easier to pay for;
  • implementing mandatory benchmarking, rating, and disclosure policies, which apply market pressures to building owners;
  • passing building energy codes and enforcing compliance for both new & existing buildings;
  • passing retrofit ordinances, which require that buildings are upgraded to meet certain energy performance standards before selling or leasing; and
  • pursuing municipal aggregation, which allows a city, town, or set of collaborating communities to become their own retail utility, where they buy electricity in bulk and take charge of running their own efficiency programs.  A city might pursue aggregation when looking for lower energy prices, power from renewable energy sources, and/or increased control over efficiency program delivery.