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State and Local Climate and Energy Program

Identifying and Evaluating Policy and Program Options

Across the nation, local governments are identifying, evaluating, and implementing a variety of climate change and clean energy policies and programs to meet sustainability, environmental, energy, health, and economic goals.

By considering the full set of energy and non-energy benefits—such as energy system, environmental, human health, and economic benefits—local governments can focus on potential policies and programs with multiple benefits.

Based on these factors, local governments are able to:

  • Demonstrate how policies and programs can help achieve multiple energy, environmental, and economic benefits in a cost-effective way
  • Design or select options that offer energy, environmental, and economic benefits
  • Build stakeholder support for climate change mitigation and clean energy policies and programs

Identifying Policy Options and Program Options

Local governments identify climate mitigation policy and program options based on their goals, priorities and regional needs. As part of preliminary screening, local governments also consider factors for Getting Started. (For more information on establishing goals and priorities, visit Developing an Action Plan.)

  • For example, if a local government wants to take immediate action and begin saving money, instituting an energy conservation behavior change campaign or installing energy efficient technologies would be a reasonable policy or program option.
  • Or, if a high priority of the effort is to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs), local governments can look to their GHG inventory and projection to identify sectors with the largest emissions that they may target. (For more information, visit Developing a GHG Inventory).

To understand the range of options available, local governments can:

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Evaluating Policy and Program Options

When evaluating policy and program options, local governments begin by establishing criteria for evaluation. After developing criteria that ensures important issues are not overlooked, local governments can use various qualitative or quantitative methods to select the best options for their jurisdiction.

Local governments can develop a set of clear and distinct criteria that reflects their individual priorities, circumstances, and time frame. The criteria presented below represent a range of factors from which local governments can select:

  • Potential to reduce GHG emissions - This is a key criterion for climate change mitigation policies.
  • Multiple benefits and costs - Some climate change mitigation actions could benefit other community priorities, such as enhancing environmental quality, social welfare, and food security. Alternatively, policies and programs might indirectly lead to costs, not benefits.
  • Institutional capacity - Certain types of polices and programs may require existing scientific or economic capabilities. Local governments can consider developing these capabilities if they do not already exist.
  • Measurability - Measurable impacts of policies and programs provide a sound basis for monitoring and evaluating program success. Results can be used to improve programs and increase public and political support.
  • Economic efficiency - Local government officials may want to emphasize options that use resources most efficiently—for example, institute policies and programs that use minimal private and public sector resources.
  • Private sector costs and savings - Most policies or programs will alter the costs recognized by the private sector, including industry and consumers.
  • Public sector costs - New policies and programs may require implementation, administration, and enforcement support from government agencies.
  • Enforceability - Some policies and programs may be difficult to enforce or require new a regulatory framework and additional resources to ensure enforceability.
  • Legal constraints - Introduction of some emission reduction policies and programs may be limited by existing legal barriers.
  • Social equity - Both costs and other impacts may be distributed unevenly across geographic locations, income groups, or economic sectors.
  • Political impact and feasibility - Public or political acceptability is an important element of a successful program.

Once local governments agree on criteria for their situation, conducting qualitative or quantitative analyses can help determine relevant and appropriate policies and programs.

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Tools and Resources

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.

Economic Impacts | Emissions and Energy Impacts | Health Impacts

Economic Impacts

Building Life Cycle Cost (BLCC) Programs

BLCC computer programs conduct economic analyses by evaluating the relative cost-effectiveness of alternative buildings and building-related systems or components. Typically, BLCC software is used to evaluate alternative designs that have higher initial costs but lower operating-related costs over the project life than the lowest-initial-cost design. It is especially useful for evaluating the costs and benefits of energy and water conservation and renewable energy projects. BLCC also calculates comparative economic measures for alternative designs, including net savings, savings-to-investment ratio, adjusted internal rate of return, and years to payback.

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.

Job and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) Models

JEDI models are easy-to-use models that analyze the economic impacts of constructing and operating power generation and biofuel plants at the local and state level. First developed to model wind energy development impacts, JEDI now includes models to analyze the job and economic impacts of biofuel plants and concentrating solar power, coal and natural gas power plants.

Emissions and Energy Impacts

Cool Roofing Comparison Calculator

States considering policies promoting the use of solar reflective (or "cool") roofing can estimate the energy savings associated with various roofing types using this online calculator developed for ENERGY STAR. The Cool Roofing Comparison Calculator Exit EPA disclaimer estimates energy cost savings for air-conditioned residential, office, or commercial buildings with at least 3,000 square feet of roof area and heated by either natural gas or an electric heat pump. The calculator provides estimates of building-specific energy savings by taking site- and structure-specific factors into account. The tool calculates the net energy savings that would result from a different type of roofing, taking into account potential increases in heating costs along with reduced cooling costs.


E-Calc Exit EPA disclaimer is a Web-based calculator that allows government and building industry users to design and evaluate a wide range of projects for energy savings and emissions reduction potential. This tracking tool was developed by Texas A&M University's Energy Systems Laboratory in response to legislative incentives to quantify emissions reductions from building energy savings and distributed renewable technology. E-Calc evaluates residential, commercial, retail, and municipal buildings energy and emissions savings, as well as savings from renewables like solar heating, solar PV, and wind power.

Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID)

eGRID contains a comprehensive inventory of environmental attributes of electric power systems including air emissions data for nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and mercury. The data are organized in a series of Microsoft Excel files that state governments can use to find data on emissions from electricity generation within their state.

ENERGY STAR Energy Savings Calculators

ENERGY STAR's Purchasing & Procurement page provides spreadsheet tools that calculate the cost benefits of ENERGY STAR appliances. Energy Savings Calculators Exit EPA disclaimer are available for a wide range of product categories including dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers, vending machines, heat pumps, computers, computer monitors, and copiers.

ENERGY STAR Target Finder

States can use this Web-based tool to assist with energy management planning during the design phase of building construction. Target Finder allows planners to set an aggressive energy performance target for building design and compare estimated energy consumption to the established target. The tool can provide direction during the design process and facilitate the evaluation of a range of energy efficiency measures to achieve energy and cost goals.

MARKet ALlocation (MARKAL) Model

MARKAL Exit EPA disclaimer, developed by the International Energy Agency, is a model that assists users in selecting appropriate technologies for maximum emissions control and cost effectiveness. Because the model gives results in terms of cost per unit of emissions abatement, this tool can be useful in determining the costs associated with certain policy measures. EPA has a nine region MARKAL technology database (EPANMD) in electronic format available to the public upon request.

Power Profiler

States can use this tool to evaluate the environmental benefits of choosing cleaner sources of energy. The Power Profiler is a Web-based tool that allows users to evaluate the air pollution and greenhouse gas impact of their electricity choices. Using only a ZIP code, the tool generates a report describing the characteristics of one's electricity use.

WAste Reduction Model (WARM)

EPA created the WAste Reduction Model (WARM) to help solid waste planners and organizations track and voluntarily report greenhouse gas emissions reductions from several different waste management practices. WARM calculates and totals GHG emissions of baseline and alternative waste management practices—source reduction, recycling, combustion, composting, and landfilling.

Health Impacts

Co-benefits Risk Assessment (COBRA) Screening Model

COBRA is a screening tool that enables users to:

  • Roughly estimate the impact of emission changes on ambient air pollution
  • Further translate this into health effect impacts
  • Monetize the value of those impacts
  • View the estimated county-level results in tables and maps

Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP)

BenMAP is a tool for estimating the health and economic benefits of air pollution reduction strategies. It combines air pollution monitoring data, air quality modeling data, census information, and population projections to calculate a population's potential exposure to ambient air pollution. BenMAP is used primarily to estimate benefits from changes in particulate matter and ozone concentrations, but it can also be adapted for other pollutants. Most Windows-based computers run BenMAP.

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