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State and Local Climate and Energy Program

Strategies and Examples of State Assistance to Municipalities

States can support clean energy and greenhouse gas reductions at the local level by pursuing the following strategies:

A description of each strategy and corresponding examples are provided below.

Membership and/or pledge programs

State-sponsored membership programs for local governments can provide a framework for municipalities seeking to save energy and address climate change. These programs help local governments:

  • Identify clean energy opportunities
  • Set goals
  • Implement projects and programs
  • Track progress

In some cases, membership programs are administered through an interactive websites that allows local governments to register as members, access guidance and information resources, and track project results. Such programs frequently involve a pledge by local governments to achieve specified energy and environmental targets by a certain date, often with interim milestones.

Example: Sustainable Jersey, New Jersey

Sustainable Jersey was launched in 2009 to provide technical support and training to local governments, as well as access to financial incentives. To participate, municipalities pass a resolution to seek certification and identify a list of actions for implementation. They also create a Green Team and select at least two of four Priority Actions (i.e., energy audits for municipal facilities, municipal carbon footprint, sustainable land use, and water conservation).

Technical assistance to local governments is also provided by the state in the form of training sessions and a detailed website.

Sustainable Jersey is administered by a group of project partners that includes: the New Jersey State League of Municipalities' Mayors' Committee for a Green Future, the Municipal Land Use Center at the College of New Jersey, and a coalition of other key NJ non-profits, state agencies, and experts in the field.

As of November 2009, 34 municipalities had applied for and received Sustainable Jersey Certification.

Other examples of Membership Programs include:

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Technical assistance

Technical assistance is typically provided by states to local governments through staff or contractors with expertise in a particular area. This type of direct assistance can include:

  • Training sessions
  • Access to on-call professional engineers and planners
  • Targeted presentations
  • Guidance materials
  • In-person consultations with advisory stakeholder groups

Example: Focus on Local Governments, New York

Recognizing that local governments are a critical piece of a comprehensive climate change strategy, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) launched the Focus on Local Governments program. The goal of the program is to provide a one-stop resource for local governments by providing access to direct technical assistance through three NYSERDA programs: the Energy Audit Program, FlexTech, and the Alternative-Fuel Vehicle Program.

  • The Energy Audit Program provides energy audits to local-government facilities with an energy bill of less than $75,000.
  • The FlexTech program provides local governments with access to a pool of engineering firms contracted by NYSERDA.
  • The Alternative-Fuel Vehicle Program offers technical assistance to encourage the use of alternative-fuel vehicles in local government fleets.

Additional examples of state technical assistance for local governments include:

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Information dissemination and educational resources

Information dissemination is an important and low-cost assistance strategy that states can offer their local governments. This type of assistance includes access to: guidance documents, toolkits, handbooks, templates, calculators, case studies, best practices, and Web links to other energy-efficiency or climate change-related programs.

Information dissemination activities often complement other types of state assistance to local governments. For example, Membership and Technical Assistance programs often include information resources as a key program element.

Example: Energy Efficiency in Your Government, Montana

As part of its Energize Montana Information Resource website, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality provides information specifically targeted at local government facilities and operations. The Energy Efficiency in Your Government Web page provides links to energy-efficiency contractors, equipment and appliances, and building materials, as well as information handbooks, guidelines, and toolkits in a format geared towards local governments.

The page also summarizes financial assistance available to local governments for energy efficiency projects, and summarizes energy services provided through the Department of Environmental Quality, such as the U.S. Department of Energy's ReBuild America Program.

Other examples of information dissemination programs include:

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Awards and recognition

Awards and recognition programs can be an effective mechanism to publicly highlight successful community-based sustainability efforts. Types of awards and recognition can include:

  • Awards programs that nominate local government programs through a competitive selection process
  • Case studies and success stories
  • Articles or Web links showcasing local government initiatives

Example: Climate Change Leadership Awards, Connecticut

In May 2009, a group of exemplary individuals, organizations, and local governments were honored by Connecticut's Fourth Annual Climate Change Leadership Awards. This program, directed by the Governor's Steering Committee on Climate Change, recognizes innovative efforts to address climate change within state borders and seeks to increase awareness about the issue.

Entities eligible to receive awards include municipalities, public institutions (colleges, universities, hospitals, and schools), and state agencies. Local government winners include:

  • In 2009, the Town of Cornwall's Energy Task Force was recognized for advising and promoting clean energy actions
  • In 2008, the City of Stamford was recognized for committing to clean energy and GHG emission reduction targets, developing a GHG inventory and action plan, and initiating efficiency projects
  • The Ridgefield Action Committee was recognized for sponsoring a "Mayor's Challenge" to promote clean energy, anti-idling programs, and organizing a sustainability retreat for town leaders

While recipients do not receive financial assistance, they are recognized publicly in an awards ceremony, through press releases from the Steering Committee's office, and on the Connecticut Climate Change website.

Another example of awards and recognition is:

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