Chicago a leader in energy conservation

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013 2:17 p.m. CDT

By Paul Tooher

The Chicago metro area is among the national leaders when it comes to developing and implementing policies that encourage the efficient use of energy in a community.

That’s the conclusion of a report recently issued by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, that ranked the Windy City ninth out of 34 of the most populous cities it studied.

According to the ACEEE, energy efficiency may be the cheapest, most abundant, and most underutilized resource for local economic and community development. The council argues that investments in energy efficiency can save money for households, businesses and local governments in addition to creating create local jobs. Improved energy efficiency can also improve the livability of a metro area.

The ACEEE produced a city scorecard based on policies and actions taken to improve energy efficiency in cities. The study looked at local government operations, community-wide energy-saving initiatives, building codes that encourage the efficiency of energy and water utilities and the efficiency of local transportation.

Boston achieved the highest overall ranking on the ACEEE’s scorecard, with 76.75 points out of a possible 100. The report specifically noted the city’s community-wide programs and utility partnerships.

Chicago was followed by Portland, Ore., New York City, San Francisco and Seattle.

Chicago had an overall score of 54.75 and ranked highest in the area of community initiatives. The ACEEE found the city had “strong energy-savings goals in place for local government and community through the Sustainable Chicago Agenda” and “requires home energy use information to be disclosed in real estate listings.”

But Chicago’s lowest ratings were in the area of buildings and transportation. The ACEEE advised that more needed to be done to “adopt and implement an energy use rating and reporting policy for large buildings” as well as “better coordinate transportation and land use planning, and improve zoning and incentives to encourage bike, transit and pedestrian-friendly development.”

Cities doing the least to encourage energy efficiency include Tampa, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C., the second largest financial center in the nation; Memphis; Detroit; and Jacksonville, Fla., in last place.

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