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As Your Buildings Get Greener, Are Your Supers Keeping Up?

by Erica Etelson Jan 28, 2010

Blueprint for green buildings coverWant to ramp up the greening of your city’s building stock? Train superintendents, says the Urban Green Council in its new Blueprint for Greening New York City’s Buildings. The Council released the Blueprint in conjunction with the announcement of a training program it is offering in collaboration with Building Service Local 32BJ—to train up 1,000 New York City superintendents in one year.

Could a green “supers” training program be the missing ingredient in your local government’s energy efficiency efforts? Read the Blueprint, which makes this case and describes the components of New York’s training program.

The Blueprint’s take home: Superintendents who know their buildings inside and out can make or break energy efficiency investments. They are in regular contact with owners, tenants, and handymen and can either initiate and facilitate energy efficiency improvements or inadvertently thwart them.

The Blueprint cites examples of untrained superintendents undermining expensive energy efficiency improvements simply for lack of knowledge. There’s no point in installing an automated energy-efficient boiler if the technician, for lack of training, winds up shutting off the computer controls and operating it manually.

Under the green super program, trainees will become “energy efficient Multifamily Building Operators” certified by the Building Performance Institute and the Urban Green Council. Trainees learn about water conservation, green cleaning products and energy efficient heating, cooling, appliances and lighting. Superintendents also learn about government incentive programs and how to develop a green building management plan.

The Blueprint lays out the training curriculum along with a brief overview of the waste and inefficiency of most buildings (which, in New York, are the source of 77 percent of greenhouse gas emissions). We all know by now that energy efficiency improvements are a sound investment, but the Blueprint crunches the numbers to show how a 100-unit high rise would save a whopping $50,000 a year if it reduced its energy usage by 10 percent!

The Blueprint can serve as valuable guide for launching such a program. Beyond the Blueprint, the 1 Year, 1,000 Supers website is worth a read.

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After Obama's Address: 5 Reasons for Optimism on Climate and Energy

by Don Knapp Jan 27, 2010


In last night's State of the Union address, President Obama addressed climate change and energy independent without uttering that hexed phrase, cap-and-trade. Local government leaders who have long hoped for strong federal action to slash carbon emissions have to feel a bit deflated, as Congressional leaders also back away from any climate bill that could make them appear as if jobs were not their singular No. 1 priority (even if that legislation creates jobs, but I digress).

Nevertheless, there are still many reasons to be hopeful that our nation will move forward with meaningful actions to create American clean-energy jobs, mitigate climate change, and kick our addiction to dirty energy. Here are a few, off the top of my head:

1. Obama still gets it. Even though he's scaled back his climate policy ambitions and is now pushing nuclear and offshore drilling, he still understands the science of climate change and that the clock is ticking to reduce emissions and head off runaway global warming. He still knows that climate action can ultimately save money and create jobs. Here were his words last night:

And yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.

I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year.  This year, I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.  I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy; and I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.  But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future – because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.  And America must be that nation.

2. Lisa Jackson is on a mission. Dealing with climate change is still at the top of the EPA chief's goals. Regulating carbon dioxide emissions through the Clean Air Act may serve as the plan B if climate legislation falters. Senator Lisa Murkowski is leading the opposition to EPA regulation, and we'll be monitoring the battle, since the outcome will have implications at the local level.

3. 2010 will be the "Year of Energy Efficiency," the year that stimulus-funded local government projects through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant hit the ground and make a real impact, with job creation and massive energy savings. Investment in energy efficiency, which hit a record in 2009, should continue to rise. Innovative PACE energy financing programs are multiplying at a phenomenal rate. More people will see the benefits of home-energy retrofits to save money, save energy, reduce emissions, and create local jobs. This is the quiet, unsexy revolution happening across America.

4. States are stepping up their leadership. Read this great SolveClimate roundup of exciting actions among states vying to lead the clean energy economy. Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, wants Indiana to be the electric car industry capital. New Hampshire is scaling up clean energy R&D. New Mexico is calling itself the "clean energy state," launching new tax incentives and what may be the world's largest solar generation plant.

5. Local governments are still the inspiration, still the role models to show that climate action is very doable, and that communities committed to sustainability are thriving communities. Cities and counties continue to set the most aggressive goals and implement the most innovative ideas, like PACE financing and solar feed-in tariffs, to name just two. ICLEI USA's membership continues to grow, with seasoned local governments (New York City, Miami-Dade County) able to share their experience and expertise, via ICLEI, to help new members move forward more quickly to set emissions reduction goals and create action plans.

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Follow Gainesville's Footsteps on Feed-in Tariffs

by Erica Etelson Jan 27, 2010

House With Roof Solar Panels

Nearly a year into the launch of Gainesville, FL,’s groundbreaking solar feed-in tariff program, ICLEI has published a case study assessing what made the program so successful and how it was set up. Feed-in tariff programs, if you haven’t heard, are a hot topic: A handful of cities like Sacramento, CA, and states like Vermont and  Washington have already followed Gainesville’s lead, and other states are exploring the possibilities as well. ICLEI designed the case study to help interested local governments incorporate the lessons from Gainesville into their own planning efforts.

Dig into the case study and you’ll find highlights of key program elements, along with insights into GRU’s program design process. For example, GRU decided to pay investors $0.32 per kWh after doing quite a bit of homework: GRU surveyed its customers to find out how much extra they would be willing to pay to support such a program ($1 a month), and used financial models to determine what price per kWh would give investors the same net present value as GRU’s pre-existing incentive package.

Equipped with ample background information, GRU designed a program that will generate 32 megawatts (MW) of solar electricity by 2016, reducing emissions by 40,093 metric tons of CO2e annually. Within the first six months, so many investors had signed up that the program was filled to capacity. (GRU capped the program at 32 MW in order to keep the electricity rate increase below the $1/month breakpoint).

By setting a price that was attractive to investors but palatable for other customers, GRU’s program gained widespread support. Another key to the program’s success was the series of workshops GRU sponsored for contractors, leading solar installers to take the initiative to approach homeowners with suitable rooftops. The workshop increased the pool of applicants and generated an enviable media buzz.

Gainesville case study coverThere are other lessons to be learned from Gainesville: As of January, 2010, only 563 kWh of solar electricity are online, prompting GRU to streamline its application and permitting process and to educate applicants and planning boards about permitting requirements. GRU staff expect to ramp up installation and reach the annual 4MW target by the first year anniversary in March, 2010. 

>> View the Case Study Now


Update, April 5, 2010: Los Angeles Business Council Releases Breakthrough Solar Feed-In Tariff Study (Inhabitat)

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Federal Climate Policy in 2010: From Copenhagen to Congress

by Art von Lehe, ICLEI USA Policy Analyst Jan 19, 2010

Capital in Washington, D.C.

2010 promises to be another year of heated climate debate in Washington. The Copenhagen Accord (see our initial analysis) – the resulting agreement from the UN Climate Conference where ICLEI’s climate lounge received major media attention – will have some blanks filled in regarding national commitments on GHG reduction targets. The Accord calls for countries to provide emissions targets reduction goals by January 31, and the US targets are expected to be in line with the climate bills currently moving through Congress. 

The progress in Congress on climate and energy legislation, combined with existing authority for the EPA to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act, provided President Obama with the political capital needed to negotiate with other nations in Copenhagen.  Both of these domestic developments are expected to be subjects of much political wrangling in 2010.

Climate Legislation

This week’s election in Massachusetts brings uncertainty to the outcome for climate legislation; as Republican Senator-Elect Scott Brown’s stance on greenhouse gas pollution regulation has varied throughout his political career.  His fellow Senator from Massachusetts, Democrat John Kerry has been a steadfast leader in the climate debate for many years. Many localities have expressed tremendous interest in seeing climate legislation pass at the federal level – given the jobs creation, economic development, and funding opportunities outlined for local governments in the bills. 

Last year brought H.R. 2454 (see our analysis) passed on the floor of the House and S. 1733 (see our analysis) passed in Senate committee. Both bills provide insight in to what the final Senate version may look like, which is now being crafted by the tri-partisan group of Senators including John Kerry, Republican Lindsey Graham and Independent Joseph Lieberman. Please follow this link to ICLEI’s analysis of the Senate outline for the climate and energy bill and what it may mean for local governments.

EPA Authority

Given the complexity surrounding climate legislation, the Environmental Protection Agency serves as a backstop for regulating global warming pollution in the event the Senate fails in passing a bill.  The EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate GHGs was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2007 in the landmark case “Massachusetts v. EPA.”  Exercising this authority, President Obama has directed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to move towards crafting regulations for greenhouse gas pollution, starting first with tailpipes – an agency action that would then trigger further regulations for smokestacks and other “stationary sources.”

Opposition to EPA authority is mounting in Congress, most recently headed up by the Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska who intends to stop the EPA from addressing global warming pollution. At the time of the writing of this article, Senator Murkowski is considering action to: either propose an amendment to block the EPA’s ability to regulate GHGs for one year; or to sponsor a “resolution of disapproval” which could overturn the EPA’s recent finding that global warming pollution threatens human health and the environment. Senator Murkowski is also considering a third option – forcing a premature up or down vote on the concept of cap and trade before many Senators have had a chance to address their concerns with the legislation.

Jobs and Livability

Before the climate bill reaches a vote, the Senate plans to turn its attention to the economy following up on the House of Representatives’ narrowly-passed H.R. 2847, known as “The Jobs Bill,” totaling $174 billion. Similar to other recent economic stimulus bills, the jobs bill would have implications for local governments as it would allocate funds for: highway construction, urban and rural transit programs, clean water initiatives, renewable energy deployment, environmental restoration, and clean drinking water programs. 

The transportation bill is expected to be on the agenda for 2010 in Congress as well. On the administrative side, Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood recently proposed new funding guidelines for major transportation projects that would include livability standards such as economic development and environmental benefits including carbon reduction. The new rules will change the way public transportation dollars are awarded, by adding new criteria to the already existing time saved and total costs assessments.

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Southeast Local Governments Take the Lead on Efficiency

by Eli Yewdall, ICLEI Program Officer Jan 10, 2010

Southeast Regional


Residential and commercial energy use are two of the three largest sectors in most community greenhouse gas emission inventories (transportation is the third). Local government interest in working with residents and businesses to reduce those emissions has exploded over the past year. This interest has been driven by the opportunities presented by Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant and Retrofit Ramp-up funding, and with innovative models like those profiled in ICLEI's 2009 Webinar Series on Innovative Energy Financing.

Southeast local governments are boldly embracing these opportunities and are creating some innovative models of their own. At least 13 local governments in the Southeast are developing programs to offer some kind of financial incentive for energy efficiency improvements to homes and/or businesses. Some will make loans with repayment attached to property taxes, some have come up with other creative ways to offer financing, and some are offering rebates or matching grants to reduce the cost of improvements and make the investment more attractive for homeowners.

Below is a summary of programs ICLEI has collected. If your community has or is creating an incentive program and is not listed below, please let us know! State network calls are a great opportunity to learn the latest about what peers in your state are developing. you can also use ICLEI's Peer Networking tool to contact one of the members referenced below.  ICLEI also expects to offer additional regional webinars in 2010 addressing commercial and residential efficiency programs as follow-up to the November 2009 webinar on Energy Financing Districts; we welcome member suggestions for webinar topics.


Household Meter-Readers

Property-Assessed Financing Programs

  • Leon County, FL, is piloting a property assessed financing program. The County's internal fund balance is being used for initial program funding. They will start with a pilot program of 100 energy audits, with audit participants having the option to take a loan of up to $6500 to make improvements. Eligible measures will include envelope tightening, caulking, ducts, insulation, and door and window replacement. County building inspectors will check the quality of work after completion.
  • Seminole County, FL, is also developing a property assessed financing program. They have allocated EECBG formula funds for program development and will issue bonds to raise capital for the loans.


Other Financing Programs

  • Charleston, SC, is developing a program with a portion of EECBG formula funds to offer loans for energy efficiency improvements which residents would repay on their city water bills.
  • Columbia, SC, will offer financing with repayment on water bills. They are working with the state energy office to apply for DOE Retrofit Ramp-up funds for the program.
  • Knoxville and Knox County, TN, have applied for $5 million under DOE's Retrofit Ramp-up program to support home and business efficiency improvements. A community non-profit lender that previously worked with the county's redevelopment programs has agreed to provide the financing.


Rebate or Grant Programs

  • Charlotte, NC, will spend $600,000 of EECBG funds to make energy efficiency retrofits available to 100 homes as a complement to its existing housing rehabilitation assistance program. Eligible homeowners will have an income at or below 80% of the area median income. Priority will be given to homeowners in current revitalization areas. Charlotte has also allocated $1.2 million for energy efficiency retrofits of businesses in Business Corridor Revitalization areas.  This program will leverage between oine and five times the city's investment depending on the efficiency technology. The city is in discussion with banks, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, about providing financing for these improvements.

  • Nashville, TN, has created Go Green District 18, with a goal of reducing total energy use in that district by 5%. Nashville Energy Services (NES), in partnership with TVA, will provide homeowners with an In-Home Energy Evaluation for a fee of $150. The fee is reimbursed if recommended improvements totaling more than $150 are made. Participants are also reimbursed 50% of the installation cost up to $500. Businesses can get a free evaluation, and homeowners and businesses can track their energy savings online through a special NES program called Powerwise. Participation is being promoted by Kristine LaLonde, Metro Council member for the district and by Mayor Karl Dean.

  • Orlando, FL, is implementing a program using formula block grant funds to retrofit 700 homes with up to $900 spent per home. Orange County, FL, is soliciting contractors to implement a similar program.

  • Atlanta, GA, has designated $2 million, about one-third of the formula block grant funds it received, to matching grants to homeowners for an efficiency improvement program called SHINE (Sustainable Housing in a New Economy). Contractors certified through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program will evaluate homes to determine the most cost-effective improvements. The program will leverage utility rebates, federal tax credits, and homeowner funds. Payment will be made directly to contractors at the completion of work. On-bill financing may be available through the natural gas utility. Atlanta has also applied for Retrofit Ramp-up funds from DOE to expand the program, and will try to pursue state authorization for property assessed financing. Decatur, GA is seeking funding through the state energy office and DOE to offer the SHINE program to its residents as well.

  • Sarasota County, FL, has allocated part of their formula block grant funds to rebates for residential efficiency improvements.

  • Alachua County, FL, has set aside block grant funds for a community efficiency program and is holding a community meeting solicit input on program design.


In addition to developing their own programs, local governments in Florida and Georgia are playing a leadership role in introducing enabling legislation at the state level that would accelerate the deployment of property assessed clean energy financing programs.

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Olympia, WA, Green Fleet Program

by Rena Ragimova Jan 06, 2010

The Achievement

In order to address the fact that one of the City's biggest energy consumers was its vehicle fleet, the City of Olympia established a "Green Fleet Policy" that stresses optimizing the ways that the fleet's vehicles are used, purchasing energy efficient vehicles, and changing driving behavior in order to limit miles driven. This invloved reorganizing which vehicles performed what functions to ensure that that vehicles were appropriately sized to the jobs for which they are needed, reorganizing vehicle schedules and routes, and designing customized multi-purpose vehicles. Fleet Operations also developed an anti-idling program, a tire pressure program, and an employee education program. The policy also dictates that each department, which help from the Fleet Operations Supervisor, must develop an annual Green Fleets Plan detailing how it will conform with the policy through vehicle procurement, department fleet operations, fleet operations performance measures, and employee travel activities.

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Copenhagen’s Results: Targets, Transparency, and Resources

by Art von Lehe, ICLEI Policy Analyst Jan 04, 2010

COP Mayor Nickels and Mexico City Mayor

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard and former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels confer
outside ICLEI's Climate Lounge during the Copenhagen climate negotiations.

Many expected COP15 would produce a treaty to take over where the Kyoto Protocol leaves off when it expires in 2012. Instead, the outcome of COP15 was “The Copenhagen Accord,” and the hard work of reaching a treaty is now left for further COP meetings. For months leading up to COP15, the expectations for results were downgraded from “full treaty” to “agreements,” as a result of intense international negotiating gridlock. While a binding treaty was in fact not reached, progress was made and local governments will continue to lead the way.

The Copenhagen Accord, negotiated between President Obama and the leaders of a handful of nations including China and India, was struck at the eleventh hour as the Conference teetered on total collapse.

The resulting Accord is a political agreement, as opposed to a legal one, since some nations opposed adopting the Accord. Thus, the Conference of the Parties decided to “take note” of the agreement with a handful of nations, out of 193, speaking out in opposition. Had there been consensus surrounding the Accord, the result would still have fallen short of the legal force found in fully ratified treaties.

While the Accord is not legally binding, it is “politically binding” in the sense that a nation in breach can expect diplomatic responses including shaming, and withholding of discretionary funding; these tools are considered by some international experts enough to mark the Accord as a real set of commitments.

While the Accord fails to mention local governments; earlier versions of U.N. negotiating texts, which are endorsed by the Accord, include local governments as actors in the struggle to combat catastrophic climate change. The inclusion of local government provisions in the negotiating texts are a result of ICLEI’s sustained engagement in the U.N. process.

Three Points of Progress

While the Accord is not a treaty, nor does it include local government language, it provides three dramatic results that represent hard-earned international progress: targets, transparency, and resources. Breaking through on these points represents movement from frozen gridlock between developing and developed nations that has existed for years. However, there is still much work to be done, and recognition and empowerment of local governments must be included in the post 2012 framework for effective international climate action to be successfully implemented.

1) Targets
The Accord achieved for the first time in history the agreement between all major emitters, developed and developing nations alike, to commit to real emissions targets. These targets are to be added to the agreement by January 31, 2010. Most experts expect these targets to be consistent with those numbers already released leading up to COP15. Local governments across the world have forged the way by already committing to and in many cases reaching their goals for reducing GHGs.

Under the Accord, developed nations agree to “commit to implement” emissions targets for 2020 while developing nations agree to “implement mitigation actions,” and least developed nations and small island nations “may undertake actions voluntarily and on the basis of support.”

The parties additionally agreed to a long-term goal by recognizing the scientific call to keep global average temperatures from rising 2° C. The Accord also calls for a review of this 2° C goal by 2015 to consider strengthening the agreement to prevent a temperature rise above 1.5° C.
2) Transparency
Often referred to as “measurement, reporting and verification,” the concept of transparency was a major sticking point, particularly between the United States and China. After much wrangling, an agreement was finally reached.

Developed nations agreed that emissions targets and delivery of financing will be measured, reported and verified “in accordance with existing and any further guidelines.” Local governments have for years been in the business of measurement, reporting and verification – a detailed report of progress achieved by ICLEI USA’s membership is outlined in our recent report, “Measuring Up.”

Under the Accord, developing nations agreed to “be subject to their domestic” measurement, reporting and verification and subject to “international consultation and analysis under clearly defined guidelines.” Developing nation actions receiving international support will be subject to international accountability guidelines.
3) Resources
One major point of contention between developed and developing nations was that of resources to combat and adapt to climate change. Basic agreements were met on the major points which included finance, technology, adaptation, and deforestation.

Throughout the negotiating texts leading up to the eventual post-Kyoto treaty, local governments are mentioned. For a detailed analysis of local government considerations in the international negotiations leading up to Copenhagen, see our COP15 Briefing Book.

  • Finance: The Accord calls for “scaled up, new and additional, predictable and adequate funding” for developing countries to support mitigation, adaptation, technology development and transfer, and capacity building. Developed nations to provide a mix of public and private funds (in USD) on the order of: $30 billion between 2010-2012; and $100 billion per year by 2020.
  • Technology: The Accord established a new technology mechanism to accelerate the development and transfer of technology for adaptation and mitigation.
  • Adaptation: Developed nations "shall provide adequate, predictable, and sustainable” funding, technology and capacity building for adaptation in developing nations.
  • Deforestation: The Accord calls for the “immediate establishment of a mechanism … to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries” to support actions that enhance forest sinks and reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation. Deforestation was not included in the Kyoto Protocol and represents nearly 20 percent of all GHG emissions worldwide.


Moving Forward

Copenhagen demonstrated that it is a difficult task to reach global consensus upon the details of a legal architecture designed to overhaul the world’s energy economy. This massive equation involves not only the heads of state and diplomats that attended the meeting, but their systems of government and political complexities back home. The United States is a perfect example of this dynamic, and President Obama was careful to carry commitments that would not exceed the current congressional trajectory (see our take on the latest congressional signals and what it may mean for localities).

Looking forward, the successor to the Kyoto Protocol that was scheduled to be finalized in Copenhagen is expected now to possibly emerge from the next annual U.N. Conference –COP16, to be held in Mexico City.

Read ICLEI USA's final statement on Copenhagen: Local Governments Merit Seat at the Table Post-Copenhagen

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