City-Level Energy Decision Making: Data Use in Energy Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation in U.S. Cities

Alexandra Aznar, Megan Day, Shivani Mathur, Paul Donohoo-Vallett

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Cities in the United States are increasingly interested in and taking action to improve the sustainability of their jurisdictions. Streamlined and clean energy use is fundamental to the cost of living and to mitigating and adapting to climate change. Therefore, it is central to improving community long-term sustainability. Using a representative sample of 20 U.S. cities, this analysis explores how cities make energy decisions in terms of planning, implementation, and evaluation. The city energy plan landscape is complex. Sustainability, energy, and climate plans vary in scope (e.g., limited to city government or used broadly within the jurisdiction), specificity, timeframe, data collection, and reporting. Cities interviewed for this research indicated that a lack of standardization in measuring impact and prioritizing actions can impede effective energy decision making. Specializing plans and their implementation within a jurisdiction enables communities to address their specific energy and climate priorities. It creates a barrier, however, for understanding the plans' impacts on climate and energy goals and the broader impacts of the plans and actions on national energy use. To address this, a nomenclature system (Figure ES-1) was designed to compare climate, sustainability, and energy plans across cities.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages67
StatePublished - 2015

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-7A40-64128


  • climate action plan
  • climate change
  • energy decision making
  • sustainability


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