For most cities, spending some time up front to quantify your current energy usage will be an important step in finalizing your goals; however, the data needed will vary depending on the goals you are considering.
Developing a Strategy
Quantify Your Current and Future Energy Use
What electricity data sets are required to get started?
If your city’s goals focus exclusively on municipal electricity usage, you may aggregate meter data from city facilities. However, if your goals are community-wide, you may need to work with your utility to gather information on residential, commercial, and industrial electricity consumption within city limits.
How can I incorporate municipal energy efficiency projects?
Energy efficiency projects often provide the most cost-effective mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Cities interested in tracking energy (and water) usage across their facilities and prioritizing their investments should consider using ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager, a free software suite. Additional resources on energy efficiency can be found at the City Energy Project.
How long a period do you need to consider?
At a minimum, you should plan to determine your annual usage, as energy consumption varies with the seasons. Collecting three or more years of data is generally preferable, as doing so will allow you to account for the impact of temperature fluctuations and identify trends. Further, it is ideal to have access to monthly data, if not more granular information, as this will better allow you to analyze rooftop solar economics, as well as the payoff for on-site storage.
What community data will you need?
Cities that have set community-wide targets should also gather information regarding community-wide energy usage. For an initial sense of your community’s energy needs, see the Department of Energy’s State and Local Energy Database (SLED), which provides community-wide estimates on energy usage, costs, and emissions. For more exact figures, you should try to engage with your local electric and natural gas utilities.
The Renewables Accelerator’s report Integrating Equity into City Clean Energy Initiatives: Considerations and Resources for Local Governments report includes considerations for specific demographic data to collect and highlights the need for in-person engagement to supplement other quantitative data.
If you have a broader greenhouse gas goal, visit GHG Protocol for Cities and ICLEI’s GHG Protocols to learn how to gather information for accounting purposes.