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Low-Energy Policies for Communities

Lower Energy Intensity Local Action Overview

Local laws and policies play a key role in lowering the energy intensity of government operations. Energy intensity is the amount of energy required to accomplish a particular amount of work, so lowering energy intensity reduces both energy consumption and the greenhouse gas emissions, and often also saves taxpayer dollars. This section of the Climate Smart Communities Guide for Local Action includes information and resources to help New York communities lower the energy intensity of their programs and projects.

Using this Overview Page

The topics on this overview page (listed as On This Page links at right) are typical areas where savings can be achieved. Links within the topics lead to related sections of a how-to page. Use your web browser back button to return from the how-to page to this overview page.

Climate-Smart Purchasing

energy star logo
The Energy Star logo identifies equipment and
appliances that can make local government
operations more efficient, in energy and cost.

When local governments establish a policy of purchasing low energy-intensity products (products that are recyclable, that are made from recycled materials or that require less energy to operate), they initiate many years' savings in energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. A purchasing policy for energy efficient products will ensure that all procured appliances, information technology equipment, lighting and control equipment will have the greatest efficiency for their use, reducing utility bills and lowering operations and maintenance costs.

Local Governments Can Mount Climate-Smart Purchasing Programs

Local government policies should require purchase or lease of only energy efficient equipment, and delivery and installation with power-management features enabled. Procurement policies and language are powerful tools to accomplish this goal. A team or individual promoting environmentally preferable purchasing often leads the way. Understanding the life-cycle cost of purchases, instituting purchasing standards and employing bulk contracts to obtain lower prices will make it easier for local governments to favor energy efficiency in purchasing.

Purchasing Energy-Related Products

NYSERDA has estimated that New York's county governments alone could save an estimated $10 million annually through adoption of Energy Star® and Federal Energy Management Program equipment standards. If energy-efficient purchasing were adopted by just half of government agencies nationwide, potential savings could equal 21.6 billion kWh and 34 trillion Btu of gas and fuel oil annually. Such savings would reduce energy costs by $107.2 million annually, and eliminate 4.1 million metric tons of emitted carbon dioxide.

Extensive assistance is available to local governments seeking to purchase energy efficient products and equipment.

Most new office equipment sold today is ENERGY STAR® compliant; any office equipment ordered through state contracts with New York State Office of General Services (OGS) is required to be ENERGY STAR®. It is important to note, however, that some equipment on the market still is not ENERGY STAR® compliant, and vendors and providers of outsourced maintenance services frequently turn off power management features. So local governments should make their goals very clear through their purchasing policies and contract language.

Green Building Standards and Policies

The 2010 Energy Conservation and Construction Code currently in force in New York State establishes minimum performance levels for energy efficiency. Local green building standards promote innovation and can provide incentives for better performance for both public and private buildings.

Governments can establish green building standards by regulation or executive order. Often, energy-efficient or green-building standards are integrated into existing local codes. Some communities draw from the U.S. Green Building Council standards for designing, constructing and certifying sustainable buildings - the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, rating system (see Offsite Link above, at right).

Gaining the economic and productivity benefits of a local green building standard will require community discussion and approval. Case studies from New York and elsewhere show actual laws and standards that have received community acceptance.


More about Low-Energy Policies for Communities: