Cities Turn to Home Energy Score to Help Residents Save Money and Reduce Energy Waste

An upcoming webinar will show how cities can provide their residents with reliable, low-cost, and easy-to-perform home energy assessments.

Cities like Berkeley, California, and Portland, Oregon, are using the Home Energy Score to help residents easily assess their homes’ energy usage. (RCKeller/Getty Images)

When the city of Berkeley, California, launched its Building Energy Saving Ordinance (BESO) in December 2015, other cities around the country started paying attention. The city’s ordinance requires owners of single family homes to disclose their home’s estimated energy use by getting a Home Energy Score at the time of sale.

Looking for a reliable, low cost, and easy-to-perform home energy assessment, the city landed on the Home Energy Score – a standard rating system created by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The Home Energy Score attracted the city for other reasons as well. First, DOE’s national laboratories and partners had thoroughly tested and analyzed the score. The scoring system is easy to understand and lets consumers compare one home to another anywhere in the country. The Home Energy Score is an “asset score,” meaning the score is based on the home’s physical structure and major mechanical equipment, not how current occupants use the home. Lastly, the scoring tool and training/testing for assessors are both available at no cost.

While the city was excited to embark on this new approach, they didn’t want to slow down real estate transactions and therefore included a provision that provides a 12-month grace period after a home’s purchase should the seller not have the home scored prior to sale.

The city of Portland, Oregon, is pursuing a similar path with its Home Energy Score policy, which its city council unanimously passed on December 14. The ordinance requires sellers of single family homes—both existing and new construction—to obtain a Home Energy Score prior to listing, and to include the score and accompanying report in any real estate listings, in addition to providing a copy to prospective buyers. With 10,000 home sales per year, the city of Portland is poised to grow the Home Energy Score market exponentially (more than 55,000 homes have been scored across the United States since the program launched in summer 2012). The ordinance goes into effect January 1, 2018.

A number of states and utilities have also taken action on the Home Energy Score by incorporating the score on a voluntary basis into statewide initiatives or residential energy efficiency programs sponsored by utilities. The Colorado Energy Office launched a statewide Home Energy Score program in 2015 with the aim of integrating the score into real estate transactions so that the energy efficiency of homes can begin to be recognized and valued. By building up a pool of home inspectors to offer the score at point of sale, as well as integrating the score into utilities’ existing programs, the state is well on its way to making home energy information readily available in the real estate market.

Cities with municipally-owned utilities can play a leading role in driving residential energy savings. Columbia Water and Light in Missouri has done just that by integrating the Home Energy Score into its Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. With more than 7,000 homes scored to date, the municipal utility views the Home Energy Score as a valuable addition to their toolbox, helping to raise awareness about the value of energy efficiency improvements and being able to quantify energy savings.

Cities are interested in energy planning for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from infrastructure management and resiliency to resource and environmental stewardship. Given that the residential sector accounts for more than 20 percent of the nation’s energy use, homeowners can play a significant role in in ensuring that energy resources are used efficiently.

Register here for a free webinar on Wednesday, February 22 at 3:00 p.m. EST to learn more about how your city can use the Home Energy Score to more readily engage residents and help them understand how to save on monthly costs while improving the comfort of their homes. The webinar will also give examples of how the cities of Berkeley and Portland are using the score to provide reliable, low-cost, and easy-to-perform home energy assessments.

About the author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation.

Seeking Qualified Candidates for SolSmart Advisors

SolSmart Advisors are fully-funded, temporary staff who work in cities to provide intensive technical assistance to communities looking to adopt solar-friendly programs and practices.

SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, provides official recognition and no-cost technical assistance to help cities advance solar energy. (Getty Images)

SolSmart, a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, provides official recognition and no-cost technical assistance to help cities advance solar energy. (Getty Images)

Cities across the nation should be aware of a great opportunity to expand solar energy development and lower electricity costs for homes and businesses.

One of the most exciting aspects of the SolSmart program is the opportunity for a city to host a SolSmart Advisor. These Advisors are fully-funded, temporary staff who work in cities for periods of up to six months. They provide intensive technical assistance to communities looking to adopt solar-friendly programs and practices.

Advisors will work with their Host Communities to reduce soft costs and remove barriers to going solar. They will evaluate existing local government programs and processes and their impact on the local solar market environment. Advisors will then apply industry leading best practices to develop actionable plans that will move a community toward designation. They will help cities achieve official SolSmart designation at the gold, silver, and bronze levels, which constitutes official recognition that the community is “open for solar business.”

SolSmart is now seeking qualified candidates for Advisor positions in communities across the country. Candidates for an advisor position should be highly-motivated, experienced self-starters who will use their professional experience to help cities go solar. Interested applicants can find a list of communities with links to detailed position descriptions here.

The ideal candidate for an Advisor is a mid-career professional with a graduate degree and some experience (or a Bachelor’s degree and additional experience) in a relevant field such as planning, public policy, engineering, or sustainability. The Advisor will earn a weekly stipend and gain valuable experience by working with local government officials and other stakeholders to address solar issues.

Any city that is involved in the SolSmart program is eligible to apply for an Advisor. The next opportunity for a city to apply to host a SolSmart Advisor will be in January 2017. The selection process is highly competitive. Communities can apply through regional organizations or partner with neighboring cities to submit more compelling applications.

To participate in SolSmart or learn more about the program, simply fill out this form:

About the Author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation. His areas of expertise include solar photovoltaic project development, due diligence, and risk assessment.

Solar-friendly Cities Challenge Winners Announced

Two U.S. cities have been recognized for removing barriers to solar energy and making it easier and more affordable for homes and businesses to install solar. Here’s how they achieved that recognition.

Among other benefits, residential solar panels reduce dependence on a community's power grid. Cities can promote the use of solar power by implementing policies that streamline the permitting process, provide tax incentives, and allow more people to install solar through innovative financing programs. (Getty Images)

Among other benefits, residential solar panels reduce dependence on a community’s power grid. Cities can promote the use of solar power by implementing policies that streamline the permitting process, provide tax incentives, and allow more people to install solar through innovative financing programs. (Getty Images)

The National League of Cities (NLC) is delighted to announce the winners of the SolSmart Cities Challenge. In August, NLC challenged cities across the country to prove how solar-friendly their local policies are by completing a SolSmart designation scorecard. Sixteen communities accepted the challenge, but there could only be two winners.

Congratulations to the two cities with the highest points total:

Fremont, California
Kansas City, Missouri

“Receiving this first place recognition is an incredible accomplishment, but the true victory is the progress we’re making toward building a clean energy economy,” said Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison. “It has required a community-wide effort to get to where we are today. From informing our residents on the benefits of solar and encouraging them to move forward with installation, to creating a streamlined over-the-counter permitting process — it’s the little things that have really moved the needle and helped us reach our goals.”

Kansas City has implemented solar policies and processes that demonstrate the city’s commitment to clean energy development. Solar is allowed as an accessary use throughout the city if certain minimum requirements are achieved. Process improvements, such as the on-line submission, review, and approval of installation plans, help solar installers and city staff save time.

Both Fremont and Kansas City have created a local environment that is favorable for homes and businesses to install solar by removing barriers to solar deployment. They are tapping into one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, diversifying their energy supply to improve service reliability, and meeting goals set by the community to provide clean power.

NLC would also like to recognize the following cities for their participation in the SolSmart Cities Challenge and their commitment to making it easier and more affordable for homes and businesses to install solar in their community:

Beaverton, Oregon
Davis, California
Franklin Park, Illinois
Goshen, Indiana
Grayslake, Illinois
Highland Park, Illinois
Indianapolis, Indiana
Lake Worth, Florida
Nappanee, Indiana
Newark, New Jersey
Park Forest, Illinois
Sacramento, California
Schaumburg, Illinois
Stafford, Texas

SolSmart, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, nationally recognizes cities and counties that have taken key steps to address local barriers to solar energy and provides no-cost technical assistance for any community looking to improve local solar markets. A SolSmart designation signals that a community is “open for solar business,” which distinguishes these communities from their peers. The SolSmart team looks forward to working with all the participating cities to help them achieve SolSmart designation.

To pursue SolSmart designation or learn more about the program, simply fill out this form:

About the Author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation. His areas of expertise include solar photovoltaic project development, due diligence, and risk assessment.

SolSmart Designates First Solar-friendly Communities

Twenty-two communities throughout the U.S. have been recognized for removing barriers to solar energy and making it easier and more affordable for homes and businesses to install solar.

(Getty Images)

Among other benefits, residential solar panels reduce dependence on a community’s power grid. Cities can promote the use of solar power by implementing policies that streamline the permitting process, provide tax incentives, and allow more people to install solar through innovative financing programs. (Getty Images)

If a home or business in your community wants to install solar panels, what would they need to do? Are there clear building codes, zoning rules, or permit processes to follow?

The National League of Cities is proud to be part of the SolSmart team, helping cities throughout the United States capitalize on a booming solar energy market and providing citizens the option of cheap, renewable energy. This week, SolSmart recognized the first 22 communities to receive designation for removing barriers to solar energy and making it easier and more affordable for homes and businesses to install solar. SolSmart honored the designees on Monday, September 26 in a special ceremony at the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) annual conference in Kansas City, Missouri.

The 14 communities awarded SolSmart Gold designation are:

Austin, Texas Boulder, Colorado Columbia, Missouri
Fremont, California Fort Collins, Colorado Gladstone, Missouri
Hartford, Connecticut Kansas City, Missouri Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Minneapolis, Minnesota San Carlos, California Santa Monica, California
Santa Rosa, California Satellite Beach, Florida

The community awarded SolSmart Silver designation is:

Boulder County, Colorado

The seven communities awarded SolSmart Bronze designation are:

Burlington, Vermont Claremont, California Denver, Colorado
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Redwood City, California Saint Paul, Minnesota
Somerville, Massachusetts

A SolSmart designation signals that a community is “open for solar business,” distinguishing these communities from their peers. In addition to this recognition, the SolSmart team provides no-cost technical assistance for any community looking to improve local solar markets.

This is just the beginning. Any city or county is eligible to join SolSmart and take advantage of no-cost technical assistance to help the community achieve designation.

To participate in the SolSmart City Challenge, pursue SolSmart designation, or learn more about the program, simply fill out this form:

About the Author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation. His areas of expertise include solar photovoltaic project development, due diligence, and risk assessment.

NLC Launches New Solar-Friendly Cities Challenge

Your city could win national recognition, free passes to NLC’s 2016 City Summit in Pittsburgh, a speaking role at the conference, a guest blog post, and more.

(SolSmart)

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, the SolSmart program helps cities remove regulatory barriers to solar deployment and implement best practices to harness economic opportunity. (SolSmart)

NLC is excited to be part of a team administrating the SolSmart program, which is designed to nationally recognize local solar achievements and provide no-cost technical assistance for any community looking to improve local solar policies. We’re challenging cities to prove how solar-friendly they are by completing a SolSmart designation scorecard. The challenge will run for five weeks, beginning on Monday, August 8, and ending on Friday, September 9. The two cities with the highest verified points total will receive the following prizes:

(SolSmart)

Cities that accumulate a certain number of points have the opportunity to receive one of three designations (Gold, Silver, or Bronze) and will be nationally recognized for their participation.

1st place

  • Two complimentary passes to the 2016 City Summit
  • Guest blog post on CitiesSpeak, the official blog of the National League of Cities
  • Speaking role during a 2016 City Summit workshop on Energy Policy
  • Recognition on NLC’s Sustainable Cities Institute website
  • Recognition in The Weekly, the official newsletter of the National League of Cities

2nd place

  • One complimentary pass to the 2016 City Summit
  • Recognition during a 2016 City Summit workshop on Energy Policy
  • Recognition on NLC’s Sustainable Cities Institute website
  • Recognition in The Weekly, the official newsletter of the National League of Cities

Even if your city doesn’t finish in the top two positions, any community that completes a designation scorecard is eligible for no-cost technical assistance to improve their solar markets. It’s important to note that this challenge is not about how much solar your city has installed – it’s about having favorable policies and processes in place to allow for easy and accessible installation of solar for homes and businesses. The SolSmart team, comprised of national solar experts, will work with elected officials, city staff, and community members to help cities update their policies and process using established best practices.

To participate in the SolSmart City Challenge, pursue SolSmart designation, or learn more about the program, simply fill out this form:

About the Author: Nick Kasza is a Senior Associate with the Sustainable Cities Institute at the National League of Cities. He is part of a team that administers the SolSmart program and helps deliver technical assistance to cities pursuing SolSmart designation. His areas of expertise include solar photovoltaic project development, due diligence, and risk assessment.