Mayors and local lawmakers in America’s largest cities continue to take innovative steps to lower energy costs for consumers and businesses, increase their resilience, and reduce pollution through increased energy efficiency, according to the 2nd edition of the City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
The ACEEE report finds that Boston continues to be the most energy-efficient city in the nation, receiving 82 out of a possible 100 points, an improvement of more than five points from that city’s 2013 score. Trailing Boston, the top 10 U.S. cities for energy efficiency are: New York City (#2), Washington, DC (#3), San Francisco (#4), Seattle (#5), Chicago (#6), Minneapolis (#7), Portland (#8), Austin (#9) and Denver (#10). With 9 of the top 10 cities improving their scores from 2013, Boston faced increased competition for the top spot.
image: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy
Key findings in the 2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard include the following:
* Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle are the most improved cities compared to the 2013 City Scorecard, with many showing double-digit improvements in their scores. Los Angeles, for example, established a strong energy savings goal, and Chicago enacted a new commercial building benchmarking ordinance.
* Other cities have also improved their scores since the last edition, including several in the Southeast United States. Atlanta, the leading city in the Southeast, saw an improvement of 5 points, earning new points for local government operations, buildings policies, energy and water utilities, and transportation policies. Charlotte made a strong showing as well, improving by nearly 8 points. Jacksonville, the lowest scoring city in the 2013 edition, saw a 50 percent increase in its score.
* All of the ranked cities, even the highest scorers, have significant room for improvement. Boston was the only city to earn over 80 points, and only 13 cities earned more than half of the possible points.
ACEEE research analyst David Ribeiro, the lead report author, said:
“Our findings show that cities continue to be laboratories of innovation when it comes to energy efficiency, with many pushing the envelope for more energy savings in the last few years. Cities are also improving their approaches when it comes to tracking and communicating their efforts to save energy. By capturing these efforts in the Scorecard we hope local leaders from cities of all sizes can learn best practices from each other and deliver the benefits of energy efficiency to their communities, such as a stronger economy and a cleaner environment.”
In the five key areas covered by the report, the key findings are:
* Government operations. Leaders in efficiency in local government operations are Denver, New York City, and Phoenix, all of which have set policies to increase efficiency in city government, procurement, and asset management.
* Community initiatives. The top-scoring cities in community-wide initiatives are New York City and Boston. They both have systems to track progress toward efficiency-related goals for the whole community, and strategies to mitigate urban heat islands. They also have efficient distributed-energy systems, such as district energy and combined heat and power, and policies or programs to plan for future ones.
* Buildings. Leading cities in buildings policies include Boston, New York City, and Washington. These cities have adopted or advocated for stringent building energy codes, devoted resources to building code compliance, established requirements and incentives for efficient buildings, and increased the availability of information on energy use in buildings through benchmarking and transparency policies. Residents and business owners can also access programs that take a systemic, building-wide approach to retrofits and upgrades.
* Utilities. The leading cities in the energy utilities area are Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Minneapolis, and Chicago. Their energy efficiency programs offer high levels of savings. These cities also have productive relationships with their utilities in program implementation and access to energy data. Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, Atlanta, Fort Worth, and El Paso are the leading cities in tackling efficiency in their water systems.
* Transportation. Cities with the top transportation policy scores include Portland, Washington, Boston, and Seattle. Their initiatives include location-efficiency strategies, shifts to efficient modes of transportation, transit investments, efficient vehicles and vehicle infrastructure, and energy-efficient freight transport.
In research involving clean fuels and updated pollen control to measure the individual impact on children of the federal mandate to reduce diesel emissions, researchers found improved health and less absenteeism, especially among asthmatic children.
A change to ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel reduced a marker for inflammation in the lungs by 16 percent over the whole group, and 20-31 percent among children with asthma, depending on the severity of their disease.
"The national switch to cleaner diesel fuel and the adoption of clean air technologies on school buses lowered concentrations of airborne particles on buses by as much as 50 percent," said Sara Adar, the study's lead author and the John Searle Assistant Professor of Public Health at the U-M School of Public Health. "Importantly, our study now shows measurable health improvements from these interventions, too.
Although the study focused only on school children, Adar said it is easy to imagine similar benefits for other groups of people such as commuters, occupational drivers and people living in communities impacted by heavy diesel traffic.
The team's research appears online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
The EPAs National Clean Diesel Campaign required the production of cleaner fuel and set stricter emissions standards for diesel vehicles purchased after 2006.
It also provided EPA-administered grant-based funding to retrofit, replace or repower older diesel engines, ranging from farm equipment to consumer haulers, and school buses to public transit vehicles. From 2008 to 2010, nearly 20,000 school buses were altered or replaced in effort to reduce the amount of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide released into the air.
The researchers followed 275 Washington state elementary children who rode buses to and from school, before and after their districts adopted cleaner fuels and technologies. Air pollution was measured during 597 trips on 188 school buses from 2005 to 2009.
Technicians went to the schools to perform monthly measurements to check lung function and inflammation, and child absenteeism from school was recorded.
Over the course of the four years, the bus fleet of two school districts was altered with special emissions devices or with the fuel used to power them. Some were fitted with diesel oxidation catalysts or closed crankcase ventilation systems, which are used to reduce tailpipe and engine emissions, respectively. All the buses switched to ultra-low sulfur diesel and some used biodiesel. These fuels are projected to reduce particle generation by about 10-to-30 percent, the researchers say.
Children in the districts missed an average of 3.1 school days over nine months but there was an 8 percent lower risk of being absent in the previous month when riding a bus with ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. For those riding a bus that was fitted with a diesel oxidation catalyst, there was a 6 percent reduction in the risk of absenteeism.
Using these and other measurements, the researchers were able to extrapolate a 14 million day reduction in absenteeism for the nation's bus-riding children if all vehicles were altered to reduce emissions.
"Our research also suggests that children riding buses with cleaner fuels and technologies may experience better lung development as compared to those riding dirtier buses," Adar said. "This is consistent with recent findings from the Children's Health Study in California, which reported more robust lung development in children with improvements in outdoor air quality."