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Municipal Low-Energy Policies How-to

Lower Energy Intensity in Municipal Activities

Note: All of the following links leave the DEC web site.

Using this How-to Page

This how-to page provides links and information to help local governments develop policies that take energy intensity into account. It is part of the Climate Smart Communities Guide for Local Action and is organized by the same topics (listed as On This Page links at right). Use your web browser back button to return to the Municipal Low Energy-Intensity Policies Overview.

Visitors to this website are invited to provide additional links and success stories -- telephone or email the Climate Smart Communities program at the numbers shown in the lower right hand corner of this page to contribute information for this Guide for Local Action.

Climate-Smart Purchasing

New York State has established climate-smart and environmentally appropriate purchasing policies that can serve as examples for other governments. They include executive order EO4: Establishing A State Green Procurement and Agency Sustainability Program. Background information to help local officials establish climate-smart purchasing programs is available from the EPA State and Local Climate and Energy Program "Energy Efficiency in Local Governments" guide.

How Local Governments Can Procure Low Energy Goods and Services

A municipal climate-smart purchasing program has several elements:

Purchasing Policies

A procurement policy sets the general framework for purchasing requirements. A review of existing municipal purchasing policies often will reveal product categories where energy-efficiency would save the community money and emissions.

The Commission for Environmental Cooperation provides extensive information, including Environmental Purchasing Policies 101: an Overview of Current Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policies, highlighting the benefits and best practices associated with environmentally preferred purchasing as demonstrated by state and local governments through the past two decades. (Note: Use the Commission's search engine to locate this PDF document.)

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Team or Champion

Typically, governments have a centralized procurement unit responsible for administering purchasing contracts and making purchases, with some purchases transacted within program units. Central purchasing is a good place to start an energy-efficiency purchasing program.

Procurement Language

For purchases of more than $20,000, New York State General Municipal Law §103 requires awarding a contract to the lowest cost responsible and responsive bidder. Since the initial cost of energy-efficient products might be higher than conventional products, municipalities may need to modify procurement specifications. To ensure that energy-efficient equipment is competitive, the National Association of State Purchasing Officials (NASPO) recommends that procurement statutes require inclusion of life-cycle costing, which includes energy consumed over the life of the product, in the evaluation of bid proposals.

Purchasing Standards

Applying the standards and requirements used in state and federal purchasing programs, local governments can identify purchasing requirements that fit specific goals.

Bulk-purchasing Contracts

Many New York municipalities purchase office products and equipment through New York State Office of General Services (OGS) procurement services. OGS contracts require ENERGY STAR compliance and satisfaction of New York State's competitive-bidding requirements as outlined in General Municipal Law §103.

The OGS Aggregate PC Initiative helps with computer purchases.

The State Electronics Challenge, modeled after the federal electronics challenge, is a voluntary program that encourages state, regional and local governments to develop green purchasing, operation and maintenance, and disposal policies for information technology equipment. Its web page provides resources for electronics procurement, operation and maintenance, and end-of-life management.

Waste Preventive Purchasing

A green purchasing and procurement policy emphasizes products that are reusable, less toxic, energy efficient, and manufactured with recycled material. The following is a list of resources that local governments can use to develop their own policies:

Pilot Purchasing Projects for Local Governments

Municipalities may find it helpful to begin with a pilot project. Such a project might include the following steps:

  • Identify the energy-using products that your organization buys
  • Use the ENERGY STAR savings calculators to estimate the cost savings from switching to energy-efficient products.
  • Identify products that your municipality buys that involve significant waste of materials
  • Select two or three products that are purchased in significant volumes and that are not energy-efficient. If possible, choose products for which your procurement officer can either set the specifications or influence those who set them.

Green Building Standards and Policies

Some New York communities are instituting green building standards for all public construction; others are developing a single green building that will assess the savings and demonstrate techniques. The following resources provide examples and ideas for local green building codes and standards.

  • EPA ENERGY STAR sponsors energy-efficient building guidelines.
  • The U.S. Green Building Council has established nationally-recognized standards for designing, constructing, and certifying sustainable buildings through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The LEED system recognizes sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental air quality, and innovation in design. The Council also offers a guide for advancing local green building policies.
  • The Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP) provides custom-tailored assistance on building energy code adoption and implementation.
  • Columbia Law School has prepared a Model Municipal Green Building Ordinance to assist communities as they develop their own green building standards.