The Role of Local Actors as Energy Efficiency Implementation Partners: Case Studies and a Review of Trends

White Paper


Eric Mackres, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy; Elena Alschuler, MIT Dept. Urban Studies & Planning; Amy Stitely, MIT Community Innovators Lab; Erin Brandt, Metropolitan Area Planning Council


Local governments have the authority to implement discrete enabling policies that influence the real estate market and drive demand for utility energy efficiency programs. Many local governments and local organizations are also developing programs and plans to meet energy needs while addressing other community priorities, such as economic development, job creation, or sustainability. At the same time, utility programs are seeking to target the communities and sectors with the greatest efficiency opportunity and to cost-effectively scale up programs to serve more participants.  Rather than competing, local actors and utilities can offer each other unique skills and tools, which when combined through sustained program partnershipscan provide a significant program delivery opportunity. Well-designed partnerships can leverage the skills and resources of utilities, governments, and nonprofits, while tailoring programs to local needs and goals.

This paper describes the characteristics and potential contributions of both local actors and utilities as they relate to implementing energy efficiency. Next it describes two different roles for local governments and civil society in implementing energy efficiency: (1) enabling policies and (2) program partnerships—including several detailed case studies for each. Finally, this piece concludes by describing some of the trends and challenges in local implementation of energy efficiency.