From Austin to Santa Cruz NRDC's Rates the US's Smarter Cities for Energy

austin texas skyline photo

photo: Stuart Seeger via flickr

There are lots of things that go into making a city more environmentally friendly--from sufficient density, to adequate public transportation, to superior walkability, to good green spaces--but a key part of all that is frugal energy use and clean energy sources. Which is where NRDC's 2010 Smarter Cities for Energy index comes into play, rating the top US cities in this area.In determining the ratings--which will eventually consider other factors for green cities as well, but the research team started with energy--the team surveyed cities about total kilowatt-hour energy consumption for the city, the top three fuel sources, whether it had completed a greenhouse gas inventory, does it have energy conservation programs and targets for reduced consumption, as well as processes to measure energy conservation.

Transportation was deliberately left out of this initial analysis and will be taken up separately.

Austin Tackles Its Urban Heat Island With Energy Efficiency & Conservation
Austin, Texas rated highly on the list of large US cities (those with populations over 250,000 people).

Urban heat island effect takes a toll on Austin: In the middle of the summer, ubiquitous air conditioners dump heat outdoors while black-topped roofs absorb solar radiation throughout the day only to release it throughout the night. The result is a city that can be anywhere from two-to-nine degrees hotter for longer hours in the day than the surrounding rural areas. So while the city is busy implementing the Austin Climate Protection Plan, including a goal to reach net zero municipal carbon emissions by 2020, it is also eagerly working to bring down temperatures now.

Efforts to cool Austin, along with distributed energy generation policies, legislated energy reduction, conservation incentives and other Austin Climate Protection Plan initiatives have earned the city a place among NRDC's 2010 Smarter Cities for energy.

Boston and Chicago were singled out for remarkable energy management and an aggressive climate action plan, respectively.

Rounding out the top performing large cities were: Columbus OH, Dallas, El Paso, Long Beach CA, New York City, Oakland, Portland OR, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Berkeley Walks the Renewable Energy Talk, While Beaverton Betters Portland
For medium-sized cities (between 100,000-249,999 people) Berkeley, California was praised for its solar financing system and called "a leader in smarter energy practices."

Other medium-sized cities performing well were: Fort Collins CO, Huntington Beach CA, Reno NV, Springfield IL, and Santa Clarita CA.

For smaller cities (less than 100,000 people) Beaverton, Oregon got a nod for making great strides in implementing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory, improving energy efficiency in city buildings, giving out loans for residential home weatherization, as well as other energy efficiency improvements in lighting and power generation.

Denton TX, Dubuque IA, and Santa Cruz CA also earned top marks in the small cities category.

Read the full results for these cities, as well as see how your city compares: Smarter Cities: American Cities Get Smart About Energy
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More on Green Cities:
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