This study reviews the planning activities of a sample of localities that have developed energy-related plans. We summarize the progress communities have made in their planning processes and analyze the key choices that local leaders make when drawing up strategic energy plans. Using a 9-step process, we compare the planning processes of a sample of thirty finalized local energy plans from communities around the United States. We also identify gaps in current local energy planning practice and specific strategic opportunities for improved management of planning processes. Sustained and effective management of planning processes will be a key determinant of how well these local initiatives achieve their energy saving goals.
Our analysis suggests that there are a number of advantages to the framing of “local energy planning,” including the ability to support a variety of community visions. Communities are also experiencing a variety of challenges when undertaking energy planning, including difficulties in connecting their visions with the metrics used to track their goals; prioritizing implementation actions; finding sustainable funding to support planning and implementation; and, in some cases, difficulties tracking progress toward goals and an absence of plan evaluation and revision. Going forward, these challenging areas should be a major focus of technical assistance and peer learning efforts seeking to enable more effective local energy planning.