July 18, 2018 | Caroline Keicher, Amberli Young

Cities are at the forefront of shaping and pioneering  the best and most innovative ways to help building owners and operators save energy – and it definitely isn’t about swapping out light bulbs anymore. 

In this way, cities serve as catalysts and enablers for  building owners that are interested in implementing efficiency into business operations and day-to-day practices. Together cities and private sector partners are coming together with a shared goal to increase the quality of the indoor spaces we use everyday.

Each of these five City Energy Project (CEP) cities are taking steps to reduce energy use in buildings and to connect with local building owners through the sharing of resources and technical assistance in their challenge programs.   


Part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, Reenergize Reno is designed to cut energy and water waste in large buildings. Reno joins 45 pioneering cities working to boost local economies and reduce climate pollution by taking on the Better Buildings Challenge. Through the program, launched in October 2017, commercial, industrial, and multifamily buildings have committed to cut their energy consumption 20 percent by 2025. The City of Reno held its first annual Green Building Awards event celebrating the accomplishments of local leaders in building energy efficiency. Nearly 100 community and building representatives attended the May 8 event at the Grove, a local LEED Certified events center. The event commended the many contributions of local building teams and organizations that are taking action on energy efficiency. The City lauded 11 leaders in ReEnergize Reno, the city’s ambitious energy efficiency challenge program


Energize Des Moines: ANNUAL CHALLENGE

The City of Des Moines launched the Energize Des Moines Challenge in November 2017 to help building owners benchmark their buildings for energy and water use. The Challenge is targeting energy and water reductions in buildings above 25,000 square feet. As part of the Challenge, the City hosts monthly or bimonthly sector networking and education events featuring presentations on best practices, success stories, emerging technologies, energy efficiency financing, and policy. With continuing sponsorship Energize Des Moines intends to extend the Challenge through 2020, documenting the multiple benefits of energy saved, money saved, GHG emissions reduced/prevented, and jobs stimulated. Energize Des Moines challenges building owners and managers to benchmark energy use, and then to take action to reduce energy use, whether through  energy and water assessments, audits, retro-commissioning, HVAC upgrades or other improvements. Participating buildings then benchmark again through October 2018, and those with the most significant achievements will receive awards and public recognition in December, 2018.


Energize Saint Paul Race to Reduce: A 90 DAY CHALLENGE

Energize Saint Paul kicked off this summer with Race to Reduce, a voluntary program that will work with property owners to help them track their energy use and make their buildings more energy efficient. Mayor Carter announced the Energize Saint Paul: Race to Reduce contest alongside City Council President Amy Brendmoen, Chief Resilience Officer Russ Stark, and Molly Janis Smith, the city’s building energy adviser. They were joined by representatives of Securian Financial Services and the Halverson and Blaiser Group, Saint Paul-based real estate developers. The goal of the challenge is to get property owners associated with 100 of St. Paul’s largest commercial and multifamily buildings to commit to reducing their energy usage over the summer. Themed workshops, tip sheets, and networking events each month will focus on energy benchmarking, tuning up air conditioning and other appliances, and updating automatic heating, cooling, and lighting schedules to make sure they’re working efficiently. Energize Saint Paul’s Race to Reduce challenge will run from June to August, 2018, and is open to all properties 50,000 square feet or larger, of which 60 percent are located in downtown Saint Paul. City officials plan to highlight participants throughout the summer and will recognize the most improved properties at an awards ceremony in the fall.



Providence, Rhode Island launched a two-pronged Challenge program called RePowerPVD.  The Challenge encourages participating buildings to reduce their energy consumption by 20 percent by 2025 through the Better Buildings Challenge, with a separate track for buildings to “race” to be the first net-zero energy building in Providence. Six property owners have joined the energy reduction challenge for a total of approximately 2.3 million square feet of real estate enrolled. Participants will be recognized by Mayor Elorza and receive a plaque for their property as well as their building name etched into a plaque in City Hall.



The Downtown NOLA Energy Challenge invites buildings of all types – a large or small commercial structure, a hotel, a retail establishment, a condo or apartment development – to participate in tracking and reducing energy use. For each sector, buildings that save the most energy will be recognized by the City. The Challenge is designed to provide building owners with the greatest tool for action, energy consumption information and data that will be analyzed for patterns and anomalies, and from that analysis recommendations are made on high-impact energy upgrades and includes access to incentives, trainings, and other assistance.


Still not sure where to get started?  A popular Challenge program that many cities have adopted, the Better Buildings Challenge, is designed to engage building owners (and companies, cities, government agencies, multifamily housing, and manufacturers) to improve the energy efficiency of their entire portfolio of buildings by 20% in ten years.  Learn more about “off-the-shelf” Challenge programs like the Better Buildings Challenge from the U.S. Department of Energy. Leading cities such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and more, have launched their own city-wide challenges.


Let us know how we can help!


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Meet the Authors

Caroline Keicher

Former Manager of City Engagement, City Energy Project

Amberli Young

Former Senior Associate

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