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Austin ranked in top 10 cities for clean energy

Local commitment is strong, says study

Aerial view of downtown from south framed or cropped in a way that makes it look densely packed with tall buildings.
Austin skyline
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Austin’s commitment to clean energy put it in the top 10 cities in the national City Clean Energy Scorecard, a project of the nonprofit group American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The council, which ranks 75 large U.S. cities by their ongoing clean energy projects, slotted Austin in ninth place on its 2020 scorecard—making it the only Texas city to crack the top 10.

The get its results, the council measures the progress of city policies and programs that save energy, promote renewable energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as focusing on efforts to embed equity in policymaking.

Austin tallied points for its government operations, community-wide initiatives, and buildings policies. It tied for the highest score for local government operations due to ACEEE’s projection that the city will achieve its greenhouse-gas emissions reduction goal, as well of its use of 100% renewable energy to power municipal operations and the existence of an energy-efficiency goal in the first place. The report also noted that Austin “continued and expanded upon its steady leadership for buildings policies” with the requirement that new homes be solar-ready.

The scorecard ranked 75 large U.S. cities across five policy areas: local government operations, community-wide initiatives, buildings, energy and water utilities, and transportation. Austin scored 63 out of a possible 100 points, with government operations and community-wide initiatives garnering the most points.

Unsurprisingly, the city scored lowest in the transportation area. While the Imagine Austin Plan, Urban Trails Master Plan, and the Austin Climate Plan outline sustainable transportation strategies, according to the report, the city “has not established vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction goals or GHG emissions reduction goals for the transportation sector”—a crucial element in reaching climate goals. The scorecard noted that, “relative to other city systems, Austin can take efforts to both direct investment towards transit services and improve transit accessibility.”

Boston retained its position at the top of the rankings this year, followed by San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Washington, D.C.

New York City, Los Angeles, and Denver, Colorado, followed in order, coming in above ninth-placed Austin. Portland, Oregon, was ranked 10th on the list.

The scorecard included six Texas cities in addition to Austin: San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, and McAllen—all ranking below 30th place. McAllen and two Oklahoma municipalities—Tulsa and Oklahoma City—were the bottom three, respectively, on the scorecard.