Minneapolis, Chicago rank high in energy efficiency report

Chicago and Minneapolis are ranked among the top 10 cities in the country for having strong energy efficiency policies, according to a report released Wednesday from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization’s  “2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard” reported that Chicago came in sixth place while Minneapolis held the seventh slot.

Both cities improved their standings since the first survey in 2013. Minneapolis was in eighth place in that survey while Chicago came ninth.

Minneapolis moved up in part due to new programs to promote energy efficient buildings while Chicago’s rise came from benchmarking and energy transparency initiatives, said David Ribeiro, ACEEE research analyst and one of the authors of the report.

The survey is based on a 100 point scoring system which allots points in five categories: Local government operations, community-wide initiatives, building policies, energy and water utilities, and transportation policies.

The top energy efficient cities of the 51 in the report, in order, are Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago. Following Minneapolis are its usual competitors in city ranking studies — Portland, Austin and Denver.

New efforts to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency helped boost Minneapolis’ standing. “We are rated one of the most improved cities and because the Climate Action Plan and Clean Energy Partnership are really great programs,” said Gayle Prest, sustainability director for Minneapolis. Both programs passed after the 2013 scorecard, she said.

In addition, she pointed to the city’s benchmarking program that requires owners of commercial structures larger than 50,000 square feet and municipal buildings of more than 25,000 square feet to report energy and water consumption to the city as another reason for the elevated score.

The report praised 2013 ordinances in Chicago that created a process for benchmarking energy use in large buildings and gave renters and homeowners access to energy consumption data.

The Chicago ordinance requires all commercial, residential and municipal structures of 50,000 or more square feet to submit whole building energy data annually to the city and have it verified every three years.

The city’s “time-of-listing” requirement allows potential renters and home buyers to see the energy use of housing during their searches. Realtors enter utility account information into a database synced to the local multiple listing service (MLS).

Both cities were among the top five in improved scores. Chicago gained 14.75 points since 2013 while Minneapolis saw a 11.75 point increase.

Overall the report shows positive trends. Ribeiro said 22 of the original 34 cities increased their scores. Yet only 13 of the 51 cities in this year’s survey scored more than half the points available, and only five were within 25 points of a perfect score, he said.

Among the trends seen in this year’s scorecard was a move by cities to benchmark buildings for energy efficiency, make energy use more transparent, and reduce minimum parking requirements to encourage less auto-based travel, he said.

As Prest noted the scorecard gave high scores for the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership the city has with Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy to improve efficiency.

The agreement calls for improving the energy efficiency of city residents in an effort to reach goals established in the Minneapolis Climate Action Plan. The plan calls for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent this year, 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.

The report said the Partnership “is a leading example of how municipal and utility efforts can be aligned to achieve greater investments in energy efficiency.”

Prest said Minneapolis is studying of areas of the ACEEE report showed weaknesses. “We’re looking where we didn’t get points and why,” she said.

Other Midwest cities ranked include Milwaukee (22th), Cleveland (24th), Columbus (25th), Kansas City (27th), Cincinnati (30th), St. Louis (33rd) and Detroit (48th).

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