Local Energy Plans in Practice: Case Studies of Austin and Denver

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This report provides an analysis of the climate-oriented energy plans for two cities: Austin, Texas and Denver, Colorado. The report discusses the history, goals, and structure of both plans; the results, successes and challenges that the cities have experienced to date in implementing their plans, including a discussion of the key factors that have assisted or impeded implementation; the roles of various stakeholders (including the utility, state and local governments, businesses, and the community) in developing and implementing the plans; the funding strategies for each plan; the ways each city has revised its initial plan; and overall lessons learned for the two plans. The report also discusses the focus areas and programs included in each city's energy plan.

Community Information
Name Denver, Colorado and Austin, Texas
Type City

Community Energy Goals Denver's goal is to reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions by 10% below 1990 levels by 2012, and to reduce total 2020 emissions to 1990 levels. Austin's goal is to achieve community climate neutrality by 2050. Interim goals include powering all City facilities with renewable energy by 2012 and achieving climate neutrality in City facilities, fleet, and operation by 2020. http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/acpp/acpp.htm
Baseline Denver's 1990 GHG emissions baseline is 11.8 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (source: www.greenprintdenver.org/docs/DenverClimateActionPlan.pdf). Austin: Referenced to a 2007 baseline - 180 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents. http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/acpp/downloads/clmd.pdf
Results to Date Denver: 2005 inventory indicated emissions of 14.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Per capita GHG emissions remained at 25.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per person. Austin: Completed a greenhouse gas inventory, and 75% of the City departments are powered by clean energy. http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/acpp/acpp_progress.htm


This report is directed at local government policy-makers and analysts and is designed to provide detailed and nuanced description of and insights into the on-going efforts of Austin and Denver to develop, implement, and refine city-wide energy plans. The report does not directly compare the two cities or their plans but provides an overview of the unique success, obstacles and approach each city has taken within the context of its community. For instance, the report highlights how the relationship of the city with its utility has impacted that city's design and implementation of its energy plan (Austin has a municipally-operated utility, while Denver's energy is provided by an investor owned utility over which the city does not have control). The report also documents the way each city has funded the actions in its plan.

Environmental Aspects

Denver achievements since the implementation of the Denver Climate Action Plan include: *Through the 2008 pilot Neighborhood Energy Blitz program, 465 households (out of the 2,457 homes contacted) received at least one-energy efficient measure, and over 5,000 compact fluorescent lightbulbs were given to Denver residences. *The City has worked with several organizations to implement the Denver Energy Challenge Program, which encourages residents and businesses to sign up for the utilities Windsource program (a green power purchase option). *The City is implementing a program to encourage businesses to participate in the utility's demand side management (DSM) program, which provides rebates for some energy efficiency measures. *The utility implemented a tiered rate structure aimed at reducing electricity and natural gas usage for residences and businesses. *The City is in the process of adopting more stringent building energy codes. *The city offers parking subsidies to non-profit car share organizations and passed a new zoning code that encourages buildings to offer reserved parking spots for car-sharing vehicles. *A citywide bike sharing pilot program has recorded over 96,000 rides, with 1,765 annual memberships and 32,396 day passes. *The City is implementing DSM and solar power purchase agreements (with a combined capacity of 12MW) in city buildings and on city property. The City also uses more than 43% alternative fueled vehicles in its fleet, has leased land to the utility to develop a landfill gas power plant, and is building CNG fueling stations. *The report also discusses other initiatives included in the Denver Climate Action Plan that have either been implemented by non-city entities, or have not been implemented at all. Austin achievements since the implementation of the Austin Climate Protection Program include: *By the end of 2009, Austin Energy had achieved an energy generation portfolio consisting of 10% renewable energy (including contracts to purchase the energy produced by 439 MW of wind turbines, a 100MW biomass plant, and a 30MW solar farm). *The utility implemented DSM programs that reduced required power plant peak capacity by 64.1MW in fiscal year (FY) 2008 and 52.4MW in 2009. *The City has adopted upgrades to the building energy code that will reduce energy consumption in new homes by 31%. *The city council passed an ordinance requiring disclosure of historic energy use and energy improvements upon the sale of all buildings. Single-family home energy audits are also required at the time of sale. The ordinance has resulted in 2,751 home audits, participation of 230 homes in the utility's grant and loan program to make energy improvements, and the submissions of 45 commercial building ratings. *Austin has PV systems totaling over 4MW generation capacity, thanks in part to the Austin Solar Rebate Program. *The City has implemented several energy measures in its own operations. 53% of city facilities purchase power from the utility's green power purchase program (accounting for 19% of the city's total energy use). City PV installations total 157kW, and the city has audited its alternative fuel vehicles.

Related Tools

Denver used the ICLEI's Clean Air Climate Protection Software to develop its GHG inventory from direct energy use in buildings and transportation (source: www.greenprintdenver.org/docs/DenverClimateActionPlan.pdf).


  1.  "Local Energy Plans in Practice: Case Studies of Austin and Denver"