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State and Local Climate and Energy Program

Leading by Example in Government Operations

Local governments lead by example (LBE) by implementing climate change and clean energy programs within their own buildings and operations. By pursuing LBE programs, local governments can achieve substantial greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions and energy cost savings across their facilities, operations, and fleets. This builds capacity at the local government level and saves money that can be reinvested into local government operations.

LBE programs can demonstrate a government's environmental and energy leadership, raise public awareness of the benefits of clean energy technologies, improve air quality, reduce GHG emissions, and improve energy supply and reliability. Local governments can use LBE programs to encourage economic development by fostering markets for environmentally preferable products and showcasing new technologies, such as green roofs.

Leading by example helps local governments build credibility as they work with citizens and local businesses on climate change and clean energy programs. In particular, investing in energy efficiency epitomizes responsible government stewardship of tax dollars.

Potential LBE Activities and Measures

Activity Description
Improve energy efficiency in government facilities Through measures such as lighting upgrades, improved insulation, and better HVAC systems, municipalities can reduce energy costs, reduce GHG emissions, increase buildings' asset value, and encourage development of energy efficiency service markets. For more information, please refer to the Energy Efficiency in Local Government Facilities and Operations Guide (PDF) (89 pp, 544K)
Integrate energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in green buildings Substantial energy savings are possible by designing new buildings to maximize the use of local resources, such as natural light, passive heating and cooling opportunities, and building materials. Further, cost-savings can be large when incorporating new technologies into a new building's original design.
Procure energy-efficient products Through its ENERGY STAR program, EPA certifies thousands of highly energy-efficient consumer and commercial products. Procurement officials can learn more about buying certified products on ENERGY STAR's Purchasing & Procurement page and by using the Energy-Efficient Product Procurement Local Guide (PDF) (40 pp, 3.5M, About PDF).
Purchase green power Governments can reduce their GHG emissions and encourage the development of renewable energy by purchasing their electricity from green power sources. Energy managers can visit EPA's Green Power Locator to find what options are available in their area and use the Green Power Procurement Local Guide (PDF) (36 pp, 548K, About PDF).
Use clean energy supply technologies Buildings can employ on-site clean energy generation technologies to reduce the amount of power they purchase from the electric grid. Technologies can include solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, small wind turbines, or combined heat and power (CHP) systems. For more information, please refer to the On-site Renewable Energy Generation Local Guide (PDF) (43 pp, 497K, About PDF).
Reduce emissions from government fleets Governments can reduce fleet emissions by improving vehicle technologies to increase fuel efficiency, reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled, and using alternative fuels.
Implement other energy-saving opportunities Demand response programs and environmental activities such as recycling, water efficiency, and sustainable landscaping strategies can result in significant energy cost savings.

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Process for Developing, Implementing, and Tracking a Program

Establishing a local government LBE program often involves the following steps and can be developed as part of a government's climate action plan:

  • Establish program framework, including the primary objectives
  • Select a team responsible for planning and implementing the program
  • Set clear, quantifiable goals
  • Screen LBE activities and measures based on expected costs and benefits
  • Develop a comprehensive program to address the majority of GHG emissions under the local government's jurisdiction
  • Track, measure, and report on program progress

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Tools and Resources

Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator

The Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator (XLS) (415K, About XLS Exit EPA disclaimer), developed for the ENERGY STAR program, uses building-specific data to help decision-makers quantify the financial benefits of energy efficient investments. The calculator estimates how much new energy efficiency equipment can be purchased with anticipated savings, compares financing options for energy efficiency purchases, and evaluates project economics under different interest rates.

ENERGY STAR Building Upgrade Manual

The ENERGY STAR Building Upgrade Manual is a strategic guide that can help local governments implement profitable energy saving building upgrades. Governments can maximize energy savings by sequentially following the five building upgrade stages: retrocommissioning, lighting, supplemental load reduction, air distribution systems, and heating and cooling upgrades.


The ENERGY STAR Challenge is a national call-to-action to improve the energy efficiency of America's commercial and industrial buildings by 10 percent or more. Local governments can bring the Challenge to their own communities by leading by example for their own buildings and operations, as well as extending the Challenge to the commercial and industrial buildings within their jurisdiction.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

Portfolio Manager is a Web-based resource that benchmarks the performance of commercial buildings on a scale of 1-100 relative to similar buildings nationwide using EPA's national energy performance rating system. Buildings rating 75 or greater may qualify for ENERGY STAR. The tool's data on short- and long-term trends in energy performance can be used to make budget and management decisions regarding investments in energy-related projects. A Statement of Energy Performance is provided for each building, summarizing important energy information and building characteristics.

Local Climate and Energy Webcasts

EPA hosts the Local Climate and Energy Webcast Series to assist local governments as they explore and plan climate change and clean energy efforts. These monthly webcasts highlight EPA resources available to local governments and present examples of successful climate and energy programs and policies implemented locally. Webcast materials are available sorted by topic or sorted by date.

Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series

The Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series provide a comprehensive, straightforward overview of local government greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction strategies. Staff can use these guides to plan, implement, and evaluate climate and energy projects. Each guide provides an overview of project benefits, policy mechanisms, investments, key stakeholders, and other implementation considerations. Examples and case studies are incorporated throughout the guides. Topics covered in the guides include energy efficiency, transportation, urban planning and design, solid waste and materials management, and renewable energy.

State Lead by Example (LBE) Guide

Local governments lead by example (LBE) by establishing programs that achieve substantial energy cost savings within their own buildings and operations, and demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of clean energy to the larger market. EPA's State Lead by Example Guide identifies best practices and state examples of clean energy activities; highlights the benefits and costs of taking action; and identifies issues, strategies, and resources for implementing key steps in the development of a comprehensive LBE program. The appendices provide additional examples and information resources.

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