The mayors from 10 major U.S. cities — Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City — recently announced they will undertake a united effort to significantly boost energy efficiency in their buildings, a move that combined could lower energy bills by nearly $1 billion annually. The new City Energy Project, an initiative from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation, is designed to create healthier, more prosperous American cities by targeting their largest source of energy use and climate pollution: buildings.

Through this new project, the cities will develop their own locally tailored plans to advance energy efficiency and reduce waste in their large buildings, which can represent roughly 50% of their citywide square footage. These plans, which will include multiple integrated strategies, can make more progress in each city than any one program or policy could alone.

The City Energy Project will offer energy expertise to help guide the cities through the planning, designing and implementing processes. The energy-efficiency solutions that CEP will help the cities develop are flexible to each city’s unique situation, supporting the following goals:

  • Promote efficient building operations. Strong building energy performance can be achieved through efficient operations and maintenance, and the training of facilities personnel.
  • Encourage private investment. Common-sense solutions to financial and legal barriers to energy efficiency should be adopted to increase private investment in building energy improvements.
  • City leadership. Cities should lead by example and reduce taxpayer-funded energy consumption in municipal buildings, and encourage the private sector to match their actions.
  • Promote transparency. Building energy performance information should be transparent and accessible to enable market demand and competition for energy-efficient buildings.

 Buildings are the largest single source of U.S. carbon emissions, representing 40% nationwide — more than either the transportation or industrial sectors. That number is even more dramatic at the city level, with more than half of carbon emissions in most U.S. cities coming from buildings — and in some cities as much as 75%. Much of the energy these buildings use, however, is wasted.