State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Chicago, IL

69.50Scored out of 100Updated 5/2015
Local Government Operations
Score: 9.5 out of 15 points
Local Government Summary List All

Sustainable Chicago 2015 is the city’s framework for reducing energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions both within local government operations and community-wide. Some of the local government operations goals and strategies included are those to increase energy efficiency in municipal buildings, improve sustainability at Chicago’s airports, and reduce municipal fossil fuel consumption in the vehicle fleet.

Last updated: December 2014

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

The Sustainable Chicago 2015 Action Plan includes a goal to improve overall energy efficiency of municipal buildings 10% by 2015, along with a goal to improve citywide energy efficiency by 5% by the end of 2015. Together, these goals address all local government operations. The city has not adopted its targets by executive order or city resolution, but Sustainable Chicago 2015 is understood to be the Mayor’s sustainability vision by city departments and the community overall.

Last updated: February 2015

Performance Management Strategies List All

The Chicago Infrastructure Trust is investing in energy efficiency projects, including installing CHP at city departments.

Sustainable Chicago releases six-month updates on its progress toward local government and community-wide goals. The city's main conduit for communicating progress on Retrofit Chicago is through the city's portal for energy efficiency in buildings. Chicago’s energy efficiency work through Retrofit Chicago will be independently evaluated, monitored, and verified in the future.

The city has dedicated staff for energy management for city-owned facilities. Installing a chief sustainability officer to the Mayor's Office has established a clear management structure and emphasized sustainability and energy efficiency as a policy priority. Representatives from ten departments oversee the implementation of the sustainability plan. We did not find information regarding whether Chicago offers financial or non-financial incentives for energy efficiency actions to departments or individual staff.

Last updated: December 2014

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

According to the 2015 Sustainable Chicago Action Plan, the city aims to reduce municipal fossil fuel consumption by 10%, replace 3% of on-road fleet vehicles with cleaner vehicles annually, and reduce the energy intensity of Chicago Transit Authority rail service by 12% from 2011 levels. The City of Chicago's Vehicle Idling Management Policy limits idling of municipal vehicles to 3 minutes, with certain exceptions. This policy applies to all non-emergency fleet vehicles, whether powered by gasoline, diesel, or alternative fuels.

Note: For local fleet initiatives, policies listed must make a specific, mandatory requirement for increasing fleet efficiency. Local alternative-fuel vehicle procurement requirements that give a voluntary option to count efficient vehicles are thus not included.

Public Lighting

Chicago has not adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. Approximately 20% of Chicago’s over 320,000 outdoor light fixtures have been retrofitted with efficient technology. As of January 1, 2014, the city’s policy is to install LEDs for any new outdoor fixtures.

New Buildings and Equipment

The city requires LEED certification for all new municipal buildings, but we could not confirm if the requirements specifically emphasized completion of the energy efficiency elements of the certification. Under the city’s Sustainable Development Policy, any projects receiving assistance or in a planned development zone must meet LEED Silver standards or better. As part of LEED certification for new municipal buildings policy, ENERGY STAR and WaterSense labeled fixtures are required. The city also requires ENERGY STAR for new appliance purchases.

Last updated: February 2015

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

According to government staff, the majority of city buildings are benchmarked. The Sustainable Chicago 2015 Plan has a goal to improve energy efficiency in municipal buildings by 10%. The city is also a DOE Better Buildings Challenge Community Partner, with 24 million square feet committed, including municipal buildings. The city has three contracts with energy services companies currently underway, as a starting point for Retrofit Chicago's municipal projects.

Sustainable Infrastructure Policies

Chicago has development impact fees to help create public open spaces in the city. Also, the city has drafted the Sustainable Urban Infrastructure Guidelines, a formal policy on capital improvements taking a life-cycle cost analysis approach to capital budgeting. It is currently been integrated into the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT)’s infrastructure projects. After a review of CDOT’s work with the new standards, the standards will be provided to other city agencies and departments for their own infrastructure projects. CDOT also has a “fix it first” policy, in which expenditures of capital dollars are prioritized based on infrastructure conditions. 

Public Employees

We could not confirm if Chicago has a flexible work schedule policy or other policies, such as teleworking, to reduce the commutes of city workers. Municipal employees have access to a subsidy of approximately 25% for Divvy bikeshare annual memberships.

Last updated: February 2015

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 5.5 out of 10 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

Chicago’s Environment and Sustainability Initiative leads community projects related to energy efficiency.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

Chicago’s Climate Action Plan set greenhouse gas goals to reduce emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2025 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Chicago’s Sustainable Chicago Action Agenda has an efficiency target to improve citywide energy efficiency by 5% by 2015. The city has not adopted its efficiency target by executive order or city resolution. The Green Ribbon Committee, which is a group of leaders from the non-profit and business communities appointed by Mayor Emanuel, advises the city on sustainability broadly, with an emphasis on energy efficiency.

The City has provided annual reports on progress towards the goals in the Sustainable Chicago Action Agenda. These reports are published online, and are published annually in December. The last report was published in December 2015. Per data released by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) in 2016, the city is not currently on track to meet its 2025 greenhouse gas emissions target. We did not find quantitative data indicating Chicago was on track to achieve its citywide energy reduction goal.

Last updated: January 2017

Performance Management StrategiesList All

Updates to Sustainable Chicago, which reports on energy efficiency-related activities, are released every six months.The city is performing EM&V of Retrofit 1, which involves energy efficiency retrofits at 60 municipal buildings. Community-wide efficiency programs administered by the local utilities undergo EM&V as part of the program implementation cycle.Dedicated staff in the Department of Environment oversee initiatives using state and federal funding as well as funds from energy savings. Also, the city received a grant from the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation in 2013 to fund a full-time Smart Grid Program Manager dedicated to smart grid and energy efficiency education. The Chicago Infrastructure Trust is investing in energy efficiency projects, including some community-wide projects.

Last updated: February 2015

Efficient Distributed Energy Systems - District Energy and Combined Heat and PowerList All

The city has identified high priority areas for future district energy and combined heat and power (CHP) facilities. Chicago has been actively supporting two microgrid developments with integrated combined heat and power (CHP) facilities in the city. One system is operational and is located at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). The second project will be developed by the local electricity utility, Commonwealth Edison, and will be connected to the IIT microgrid.

Last updated: January 2017

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

The city’s Climate Action Plan has a goal to increase rooftop gardens to a total of 6,000 buildings citywide by 2020 and to plant an estimated 1 million trees by 2020.

Per Chicago’s Sustainable Development Policy, expedited green permits are available for construction involving a green roof, rainwater harvesting, or a similar measure. The Chicago Energy Efficiency Conservation Code requires new low-sloped roofs to have a minimum 3-year reflectance of 0.5 and medium sloped roofs to have a reflectance of 0.15. Chicago was one of the first cities to require cool roof technologies, having integrated requirements into the city’s energy efficiency code as early as 2001. The city has not adopted a private tree protection ordinance or policies that require or incentivize conservation of private land.

Last updated: January 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 22.5 out of 29 points
Buildings Summary List All

Chicago has some building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including an energy savings target, above code requirements, and energy rating and disclosure for residential buildings. The Department of Buildings manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Chicago.

Last Updated: Oct 2016

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

The State of Illinois allows local jurisdictions to adopt a building codes that are more stringent than the state mandated Illinois Energy Conservation Code. The Illinois Energy Conservation Code is as stringent as the 2015 IECC for both commercial and residential buildings. To learn more about building energy codes in Illinois, please visit the State Policy Database.


Chicago complies with the Illinois Energy Conservation Code as of January 2016. The City of Chicago has additional Energy Conservation Code requirements in the Municipal Code that apply as well. Where there are conflicts between the State and Municipal Codes, the most stringent requirements take precedence. 


Chicago complies with the Illinois Energy Conservation Code as of January 2016. The City of Chicago has additional Energy Conservation Code requirements in the Municipal Code that apply as well. Where there are conflicts between the State and Municipal Codes, the most stringent requirements take precedence. 

Last Updated: January 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

All city building staff are tasked with energy code enforcement. Building code officials do receive training on the energy code. Typically, a special training is set up for plans reviewers and building inspectors, and is provided by the State Energy Code program. Chicago building code officials are required to attend energy code training, which is provided by the state energy code compliance and training program.

The City of Chicago has a Registered Energy Professional program, among other enforcement mechanisms. This is new since the 2015 scorecard. Upon submittal of the building permit application, which also includes the submittal of building plans, project applicants are required to have a Registered Energy Professional (REP) review the plans to confirm compliance with the current energy code. Only licensed architects or professional engineers (licensed in the state of Illinois), are eligible to become REPs, and, REPs are required to have completed training that specifically focuses on the requirements of the energy code. The City of Chicago keeps an updated list of all REPs that are in good standing. The REP program is mandatory for all projects requiring a permit that are subject to the energy code. In addition, field inspectors are responsible for verifying compliance during on-site inspections.

Extensive training and other resources are provided by the State of Illinois’ Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which provides statewide energy code training and resources. Some of the resources provided include free trainings, an ‘ask the expect’ service, code interpretations, and other tech tips for builders. The City of Chicago helps to promote these materials and trainings to the local community of developers, owners, and tradespeople.

Last Updated: Oct 2016

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Green Building Requirements

The Chicago Sustainable Development Policy includes green building requirements for residential, institutional, industrial, commercial, and existing building/landmarked building projects, and applies to projects receiving financial assistance and non-financial assistance. Under the city's Sustainable Development Policy, any commercial projects receiving assistance or in a Planned Development Zone must meet LEED Silver certification or better and must also have a green roof. *check*

The Chicago Sustainable Development Policy requires projects receiving financial assistance and needing special approvals to include sustainable elements, including green roofs and LEED certification.This policy has been implemented since 2004 and has resulted in Chicago being a global leader in the green roof movement and in the number of LEED certified buildings.

Other above-code items include a cool roof requirement in the energy code, which has been in place since 2001.

Residential buildings are not subject to green building requirements. *check*

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Chicago does not yet require commercial or residential buildings to take energy efficiency actions such as energy audits or retro-commissioning. Unchanged from 2015 scorecard.

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings

Chicago offers the Green Permit Program for commercial building projects aiming to achieve a certain level of energy efficiency. For residential construction, Chicago offers rebates through the Chicago Retrofit Residential Partnership. *check*

The City’s Neighborhood Improvement Program, financed using TIF funds, are used in 1-4 unit buildings to make qualified exterior repairs, limited interior improvements, and select energy efficiency upgrades. Also, any project that receives TIF financing must adhere to the requirements of the Sustainable Development Policy.

Last Updated: Oct 2016

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Benchmarking Policy - Commercial and Residential

The Chicago Energy Use Benchmarking Ordinance requires commercial and residential buildings greater than 50,000 square feet to benchmark using Portfolio Manager, verify the data, and make the information transparent to the city. Covered buildings must comply by providing annual reports to the City. Every three years, benchmarking data must be verified by a trained professional. This ordinance was adopted in September 2013, implemented shortly thereafter, and the reporting schedule began in June 2014. This ordinance is enforced by the commissioner of the City’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, and non-compliance holds a daily fine. The aggregated benchmarking data is made available to the public on an annual basis, and building-specific data is released to the public after the second year that a property reports under the ordinance.

The ordinance is now fully implemented and all properties covered by the ordinance were required to report by June 1, 2016. Some properties were also required to comply in 2015 or 2014, since properties were phased-in by building size and sector.

Chicago offers training and guidance to building owners through a full time help center hotline. Chicago also worked with local utilities to ensure access to whole-building energy use data for buildings with multiple tenants, simplifying the process of data collection. Also, at the time of sale realtors can access home energy cost transparency reports which they are then required to provide to home purchasers. 

The multiple listing service serving Chicago includes fields for energy efficiency features of homes listed on the market.

Training/guidance through the city or state

Chicago offers benchmarking training and guidance to building owners through a full time help center hotline / email address. To date, the Help Center has facilitated over 10,000 email and phone interactions since 2014. Also, the City has worked with partners to offer 40 free trainings over the past 3 years.

Chicago also worked with local utilities to ensure access to whole-building energy use data for buildings with multiple tenants, simplifying the process of data collection.

Enforcement strategy for non-compliance or poor energy performance

This ordinance is enforced by the commissioner of the City’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), and non-compliance holds a daily fine.

Energy use disclosure

All commercial and residential properties 50,000 square feet or greater are required to disclose energy use to the City of Chicago. The City of Chicago is then authorized to share the building-specific energy use information publicly after the 2nd year that a property reports to the City.

City database of energy use data

Currently, data are publicly available in a database (which can be downloaded) for the properties that were required to comply in 2014 and again in 2015. The data are available on two platforms: City of Chicago's Data Portal and Chicago Building Energy Performance Map. Realtors to access home energy cost transparency reports.

Additional analyses of building energy use data are provided in the City’s annual energy benchmarking reports, which have been published in 2014 and 2015.

Energy efficiency features in local MLS

Midwest Real Estate Data (Chicago’s MLS) provide a number of green fields, including:

  • HERS Index Score
  • ENERGY STAR Score/Certification
  • LEED Certification
  • NAHB Certification
  • Green features, including PV, solar hot water, geothermal, low flow commodes, air exchanges, etc.

Last Updated: Oct 2016

Comprehensive Efficiency Services List All

Removed from 2017 Scorecard

A Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is available to all homeowners in Chicago through Illinois Home Performance. Comprehensive commercial efficiency services are available through ComEd's Commercial Real Estate programs.

Last Updated: December 2014

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 15 out of 18 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), an investor-owned utility (IOU) is the primary electric service provider for the City of Chicago. Peoples Gas, an IOU, is Chicago’s primary natural gas supplier. To help Commonwealth Edison and Peoples Gas reach the state EERS target, the City of Chicago is an active promoter of energy efficiency programs. Additionally, the State of Illinois provides 25% of the funding for utilities to run energy efficiency programs. On the state level, Chicago strongly advocates for additional spending requirements for energy efficiency projects for all of its utilities.

The State of Illinois requires energy efficiency program spending and energy savings targets for its utilities through an EERS. To learn more about the state requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Illinois page of the State Database.

The Chicago Department of Water Management is the municipal utility which provides Chicago with drinking water services and stormwater management. The utilities partner to run some efficiency programs, as well as run some independently. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is the regional wastewater treatment utility and also coordinates stormwater management in Cook County.

Last Updated: February 2015

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2012, according to ComEd, they spent $141,511,000 on electric efficiency programs, representing 3.01% of its annual revenue. Due to these programs, ComEd reported a net incremental electricity savings of 1,047,764MWh, representing 1.18% of its retail sales. In 2013, Peoples Gas reported spending $19,005,400 on natural gas efficiency programs. The expenditures normalize to $25.36 per residential customer. Due to these programs, Peoples Gas reported a net incremental savings of 7.77MMTherms, representing .71% of its retail sales. Spending on electricity and natural gas represented in this section covers the entire Illinois service territory, not just Chicago. ComEd offers electric efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers. Peoples Gas similarly offers natural gas efficiency programs to residential and business customers.

The city promotes energy efficiency programs and other rebate and incentives under Retrofit Chicago and the new Smart Grid Program. Retrofit Chicago is marketed by city staff and non-profit partners through neighborhood outreach and engagement including community workshops, educational materials, and online resources. The Smart Grid Program is coordinating citywide outreach on smart meters and energy efficiency by visiting community service centers, community events, and holding workshops at Chicago Public Libraries, senior centers, and other locations to share information.

Natural Gas programs also fall under Retrofit Chicago and are promoted in conjunction with electric utility incentives.

Last Updated: February 2015

Energy Efficiency Targets & Funding Agreements List All

There are no local targets set for ComEd and Peoples Gas, but the utilities are subject to state targets.

Chicago uses group purchasing power through municipal aggregation to power municipal operations. Additionally, 200 communities have signed on to the aggregation contract to realize lower rates for their members.

Last Updated: December 2014

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, ComEd makes use of the Green Button data sharing platform through the online dashboard, My Energy Tools. In order to assist large building managers with accessing aggregated energy data for building benchmarking, ComEd and Peoples Gas provide automatic data entry into Portfolio Manager. Peoples Gas also provides a free whole-building energy aggregation service to assist large buildings in accessing aggregated data for energy benchmarking.

Chicago has established a data-sharing agreement with ComEd and Peoples gas to collect aggregate community-level electricity usage data and provide this data online. Through this partnership, the city released a public open database of average citywide energy use by census block. Using this data, the city also launched a visualization tool, the Energy Map , an initiative that helps residents more easily understand their energy use at home. Chicagoans can enter their address and see how their energy usage compares against other blocks in the neighborhood or citywide. The City of Chicago continues to advocate for polices requiring utilities to expand the availability and granularity of energy usage data.

Last Updated: February 2015

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

Chicago’s MeterSave program provides significant incentives to the community. Through the MeterSave program, the city’s Department of Water Management supplies a free water meter to unmetered residents and business customers, and guarantees bills will be lower than the estimated rate for 7 years post installation. The City of Chicago also offers rain barrels and indoor or outdoor conservation kits to homeowners.

The City of Chicago has a goal to decrease water use by 2% annually, according to the plan Sustainable Chicago 2015.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

Both the Department of Water Management (DWM) and MWRD have extensive programs to increase energy efficiency across operations, and are pursuing energy efficiency initiatives. DWM is converting several steam-powered turbines and boilers at five pumping stations in the water distribution system to electricity, saving more than $6.4 million/year in energy costs, with additional savings from lower operating costs, and a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 75%. The conversion of the pumping stations from steam to electricity are part of the “Building a New Chicago” program. 

MWRD has also implemented a sewer thermal heat and cooling system to save energy at its water reclamation plant, where methane is also collected for electricity generation.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Chicago runs the Rain Ready program, offering information and resources to help homes and businesses become rain ready, and to be protected from flooding. There will also be advice on water conservation and efficiency, and information on protecting local streams and rivers. The city provides free rain barrels as part of the MeterSave program as an incentive to install water meters and conserve water. The city’s stormwater management ordinance requires private development to provide onsite water infiltration as a percentage of developed space.

MWRD also has a stormwater management program with nineteen goals, and the city has recently drafted a comprehensive green infrastructure strategy. In 2014, under this plan, $50 million from the city’s capital budget was allocated over the next 5 years to fund green stormwater infrastructure projects on municipally-owned sites.

Last Updated: February 2015

Score: 17 out of 28 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the City of Chicago is the Chicago Transit Authority. CTA also provides the public transportation for the city and the broader metropolitan area, including train and bus service. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Chicago, and the surrounding counties. The City of Chicago Department of Transportation is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: December 2014

Location Efficiency List All

Chicago has not yet implemented location efficient zoning codes to be used across the city or in any specific neighborhood. The city’s zoning ordinance includes parking reductions for development around transit stations. Chicago adopted its complete streets policy in 2006, Safe Streets for Chicago. The adoption of the policy encourages the inclusion of complete streets principles in all road construction and maintenance projects, ensuring safety for all in the public right-of-way. The city offers density bonuses and expedited review of parking requirements for developments choosing to locate in transit-oriented zones.

Last updated: February 2015

Mode Shift List All

Transportation and Land Use Planning

Chicago's Sustainable Chicago 2015 Action Agenda includes a variety of approaches to reduce VMT with the city. These include making Chicago the most bike and pedestrian friendly city in the country by adding up to 100 miles of new bicycle lanes, introducing bicycle sharing, and developing a pedestrian master plan. Another approach targets improving transit ridership.

Car and Bicycle Sharing

There are two car sharing programs currently available to the residents and visitors of Chicago, zipcar and Hertz OnDemand. The city is served by a bikesharing program, Divvy, with 300 operable stations, with residents and visitors taking over 2.7 million trips and traveling over 6 million miles.

Transportation Demand Management Programs

The city is running an individualized marketing TDM program that promotes non-SOV trips in five communities over four years. The city has worked in Bronzeville and Pilsen and are currently working on selecting the remaining 3 communities. The city also has federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds for a larger TDM program.

Last updated: February 2015

Transit List All

The CTA and Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad transit systems that serve Chicago received $2,627,857,184 in total funding in 2012. This funding level is $362 per resident in the service territory of the agency. In comparison, 2011 spending on roads and parking by the city was $485,520,956, or $179 per city resident. This results in a ratio of per capita regional transit funding to per capita city highway and parking funding of 2.02 to 1.

The Transit Connectivity Index measures how many transit rides are available per week within walking distance from the average household. The City of Chicago’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 75,708, putting it in the highest possible category (>50,000) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: December 2014

Efficient Vehicles and Driver Behavior List All

Chicago offers the Drive Clean Truck Voucher program for the purchase of electric and hybrid trucks and buses. The Drive Clean Station Rebate program offers rebates for the development of DC fast-charging stations. The city also owns 168 charging stations available for public use.

Chicago’s Municipal Code: S 9-80-095 prohibits idling of diesel powered vehicles for longer than three minutes.

Last updated: February 2015

Freight List All

There are 59 intermodal freight facilities within the City of Chicago’s boundaries, 54 of which we classify as efficient because it is port- or rail-capable. Chicago’s share of regional freight traffic in 2011, normalized by population, is 82,002 ton-miles. As a result there are 0.659 efficient intermodal facilities per thousand ton-miles of freight traffic, putting the city in the middle category for this metric (0.5-0.999) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: December 2014