Texas cities fall short in ranking of energy efficiency policies

While Texas prides itself as the Lone Star State, when it comes to energy efficiency policies, its major cities find themselves in the middle of the pack, according to a city energy efficiency report issued Tuesday morning.

Houston ranked 13th for its policies on energy efficiency, receiving strong marks for its buildings and transportation, according to the City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which ranked 34 of the most populous cities in the U.S. on policies and actions to advance energy efficiency.

“Building is a place where Houston excels, because of the leadership out of the mayor’s office,” said Doug Lewin, executive director of the South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resoure, which focuses on energy efficiency issues in Texas and Oklahoma. “Houston is a real leader on municipal building operations.”

Houston was one of the first cities to sign up for the better buildings programs, where both the city and building owners agree to a 20 percent energy savings goal by 2020, Lewin said.

“It is not a crazy moonshot goal but it is ambitious,” Lewin said.

The City of Houston has also established a green office challenge, where the city works with building owners to drive energy efficiency retrofits.

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The study compared local government operations, community-wide initiatives, building policies, energy and water and transportation policies. Cities can improve their energy efficiency through a range of measures, from building codes to procurement practices and employee behavior incentives, the report said.

The report is the first of its kind to rank U.S. cities in terms of energy efficiency, Mackres said.

“Cities are acting as laboratories of innovation for energy efficiencies,” said Eric Mackres, lead author of the report for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, in a phone press conference.

The five most energy efficient cities flank both coasts: Boston received first place, followed by Portland, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. These cities received especially high marks for strong public transportation systems and building codes that require energy efficiency.

In Texas, Austin outflanked Houston to come in 6th, receiving higher marks for its building policies and energy and water utility policies. Dallas came in just behind Houston in 14th place, with stronger transportation policies but much weaker building policies and local government operations.

San Antonio received 16th place, a result of weaker building policies, while El Paso and Forth Worth received 23rd and 26th place, respectively.