How Your Local Electeds Can Support Clean Energy

Inst: Local Self-Reliance
3 min readOct 2, 2018

Originally published at

By John Farrell

Municipal elections often fall off the radar during national ones, but cities retain a surprising amount of power over their energy future. What can you ask a local candidate or elected official to pursue? The following list of 11 resolutions, actions, and rules can make your local city council or mayor a clean energy champion.

Download the 2-page handout


Go for 100%: Over 70 U.S. cities have set goals to get all of their electricity from renewable sources within 15–20 years, offering lower costs and more local energy production. Listen to podcasts with the pioneers —

Commit to developing local renewable energy: In Taos, N.M., and Minneapolis, Minn., city officials have set goals to capture the economic benefits of local renewable energy resources. Read the resolution from Taos —

Municipal Actions

Transform city lighting: 35 Pennsylvania towns went in together to bulk purchase LED street lighting and will save $1.4 million per year. Read the news about big savings —

Blanket city buildings with solar power: Dozens of cities — including Kansas City, Mo.; Raleigh, N.C.; and New Bedford, Mass. — have cut energy costs by investing big in solar on public buildings. Preview the report and podcasts––

Switch city vehicle fleets to electricity: Houston, Tex., saved over $100,000 per year by switching 27 fleet vehicles to all-electric Nissan LEAFs. Read the case study —

Fund local energy investment with utility franchise fees: Minneapolis, Minn., raised fees on electricity and gas bills by 0.5% to create a fund supporting clean energy deployment and access for city residents and businesses. Read the news release —

See stories of implementation and an interactive way to browse local energy policies with ILSR’sCommunity Power Toolkit

Rules to Simplify Zoning and Permitting

Minimize zoning and permitting costs for renewable energy systems: Hundreds of U.S. cities have lowered rooftop solar costs by 20% with streamlined permitting. Lancaster, Calif., offers a model ordinance. Get the ordinance language —

Rules to Lower Housing Costs

Require solar on all new buildings: Several cities (and the state of California) lower solar costs by one-third by requiring new residential properties to incorporate it during construction. Get the ordinance language —

Require energy use disclosure on sale or rental of property: allowing prospective buyers or renters to see energy use data motivates property owners to lower energy costs. See who’s adopted it and ordinance language —

Require licensed rental properties to meet minimum energy standards: Boulder, Colo., set minimum standards for all rental properties to ensure renters will have affordable energy bills. See the SmartRegs FAQ —

Rules to Improve Buildings

Adopt the most aggressive building energy code allowed: In several states, cities may set their own energy codes or adopt a “stretch” code, saving property owners millions of dollars on energy bills. See what cities can do, and what they’ve done —

See which states have building energy code authority and other policies states can adopt to support local energy action on ILSR’s Community Power Map

This article originally posted at For timely updates, follow John Farrell or Marie Donahue on Twitter, our energy work on Facebook, or sign up to get the Energy Democracy weekly update.

Photo credit: Zane Selvans via Flickr



Inst: Local Self-Reliance

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance has a vision of thriving, diverse, equitable communities. To reach this, we build local power to fight corporate control