State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Cincinnati, OH

33.50Scored out of 100Updated 5/2015
Local Government Operations
Score: 3 out of 15 points
Local Government Summary List All

The Green Cincinnati Plan of 2013 articulates the city’s energy-related goal for its internal government operations. The Office of Environment & Sustainability oversees implementation of the government operations goal and facilitates interdepartmental coordination.

Last updated: December 2014

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

The Green Cincinnati Plan of 2013 includes a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from local governments operations by 2% annually between 2013 and 2020. The plan was formally adopted by the Cincinnati City Council in June 2013.

We did not find quantitative data indicating Cincinnati was on track to achieve its local government energy use goal.

Last updated: December 2014

Performance Management Strategies List All

We could not confirm if Cincinnati has a dedicated funding source or budgeting mechanism for local government efficiency investments.

Cincinnati does not regularly schedule community updates on energy efficiency, but the city does provide updates on some activities, such as its activity related to energy service performance contracts (ESPC). The Green Cincinnati Plan update included public meetings through the Green Umbrella Action Teams and presentations to city council. The city does not use an independent firm for evaluation, monitoring, and verification of progress toward its local government goal.

Cincinnati has at least one municipal staff member dedicated to energy efficiency efforts within government operations. Cincinnati does not offer 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

Cincinnati does not have specific fuel efficiency requirements for the city fleet, but all city employees must take an Ecodriving Course designed to teach vehicles operators how to operate and maintain vehicles in a manner that improves vehicle fuel efficiency. As part of the Green Cincinnati Plan, the city is planning to design a program to regularly right-size its vehicle fleet, but the program has not yet started.

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

Cincinnati has not adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. The city is installing energy efficient lighting retrofits under Phase 3 of the city’s ESPC. Streetlights are scheduled, so they only operate when needed.

New Buildings and Equipment

The Green Guidelines for the School Facility Master Plan require schools and public buildings to meet LEED standards, but we could not confirm if the requirements specifically emphasized completion of the energy efficiency elements of the certification. Cincinnati’s procurement policy does not contain energy efficiency requirements. 

Last updated: December 2014

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

Cincinnati launched an energy benchmarking toolkit in late 2013, but the city does not know if local government buildings are using the tool and there is no policy requiring them to use the tool. There is no retrofit policy in place, but the city has made substantial efficiency investments. Three phases of ESPCs have resulted in upgrades at close to 100 city buildings

Sustainable Infrastructure Policies

Cincinnati does not have sustainable infrastructure policies for capital investments. According to the Fiscal Years 2014 – 2015 Budget, the city has dedicated more than two-thirds of the General Capital Budget to infrastructure projects in Fiscal Year 2013/2014.

Public Employees

Cincinnati does not have policies to reduce the commutes of city workers, such as flex schedules and teleworking policies. The city allows employees to use a pre-tax account for transportation costs including parking and/or transit, but the city does not provide any additional transit benefits to employees.

Last updated: December 2014

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 4.5 out of 10 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

Cincinnati’s Office of Environment and Sustainability leads the city’s implementation of its community-wide energy efficiency initiatives.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

The Green Cincinnati Plan of 2013 includes a goal to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas reductions by 2% annually between 2013 and 2020. The plan was formally adopted by the Cincinnati City Council in June 2013. More than 200 members of Green Umbrella Action Teams and other stakeholders took part in a strategic planning process to provide input on the plan.

The city tracks and reports progress toward its goals to city council on an annual basis. It is in the process of providing the public with access to various sustainability indicators through its open data portal. The city is currently not on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions goal.

Last updated: January 2017

Performance Management StrategiesList All

Cincinnati has five employees dedicated to community-wide efficiency efforts. Cincinnati has an energy aggregation plan with some funding for efficiency, but we could not find additional information of the efficiency fund. The city has not implemented other performance management strategies. The city does not annually release reports on progress toward its community-wide energy-related goal and progress is not independently evaluated, monitored, and verified. 

Last updated: December 2014

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

We did not find information on any programs or policies to plan for future district energy systems.   

Last updated: January 2017

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

The city has not adopted have any goals to directly address temperature increases resulting from the urban heat island effect. The city is indirectly addressing its urban heat island through its goal to increase the acreage of high-quality green space 10% by 2020 through parks and rooftop gardens. The regional Taking Root initiative also has a goal to plant 2 million trees by 2020.

Green roof loans are provided through a joint program backed by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati Office of Environmental Quality. The Cincinnati Zoning Code also allows for cluster housing zoning that encourage the permanent protection of land alongside dense residential development patterns.. The city has not adopted a private tree protection ordinance.

Last updated: January 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 6 out of 29 points
Buildings Summary List All

Cincinnati has some building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including upfront code support and incentives for energy efficiency building improvements. The Property Maintenance Division of the Department of Community Development manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Cincinnati.

Last Updated: December 2014

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

The State of Ohio has set mandatory building energy codes statewide. The Ohio Board of Building Standards adopted the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and ASHRAE 90.1-2010 with amendments, effective January 1, 2017. To learn more about Ohio’s building energy code requirements, please visit the State Policy Database.


Commercial buildings in Cincinnati comply with the state mandated codes. The city actively monitors state level discussions concerning building codes and advocates for improvements.


Residential buildings in Cincinnati comply with the state mandated codes. The city actively monitors state level discussions concerning building codes and advocates for improvements.

Last Updated: January 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Cincinnati reported a budget of $1,038,430 for code enforcement and prosecution in its 2013 budget. This level of spending normalizes to $62 per $1,000 of residential construction spending for the city. Cincinnati has not made third-party plan review or performance testing mandatory for code compliance, nor has it established either as a voluntary code compliance option. Cincinnati offers building code consultations prior to issuance at its Business Development and Permit Center.

Last Updated: December 2014

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Building Energy Savings Goals

Cincinnati has not yet published an energy-intensity reduction target for its private buildings.

Green Building Requirements

Cincinnati has not yet established above-code building requirements for any class of building.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Cincinnati does not yet require commercial or residential buildings to take energy efficiency actions such as energy audits or retro-commissioning.  

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings

Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance offer a rebate of up to $750 off home energy improvements recommended through the Energy Alliance’s Home Performance. Cincinnati also offers the Community Reinvestment Area (RCA) Residential Tax Abatement to city residents, which allows building owners to pay taxes on the pre-improvement value of their property after making efficiency improvements. The city also offers the CRA Commercial Tax Abatement Program to companies and developers for new construction and renovation of LEED buildings and non-LEED buildings pending a financial gap analysis. 

Last Updated: March 2015

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Cincinnati does not have mandatory or voluntary programs to encourage building benchmarking in any sector. The MLS service that serves the Cincinnati area does not include fields for energy-efficient measures.

Last Updated: December 2014

Comprehensive Efficiency Services List All

The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is available to all homeowners in Cincinnati through the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance.

Last Updated: December 2014

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 8.5 out of 18 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

Duke Energy Ohio, an investor-owned utility (IOU) and subsidiary to Duke Energy, is the primary electric utility and natural gas utility serving Cincinnati. The State of Ohio requires spending and savings targets for its IOU through an EERS (SB221). The utilities must propose energy efficiency plans and file annual reports to the commission. However, 2014 legislation placed a two-year freeze on energy efficiency requirements. To learn more about the state-requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Ohio page of the State Database

The Greater Cincinnati Water Works provides drinking water services to the City of Cincinnati. The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) provides wastewater treatment services to Cincinnati.

Last Updated: February 2015

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2013, according to Duke Energy Ohio, they spent $28,943,800 on electric efficiency programs, representing 2.52% of its annual revenue. Due to these programs, Duke Energy’s net incremental electricity savings was 188,615MWh, representing .95% of its retail sales. In 2013, Duke Energy Ohio either did not spend or did not report spending on natural gas efficiency programs. Spending on electricity efficiency represented in this section covers the entire Ohio service territory, not just Cincinnati. Duke Energy Ohio offers electric efficiency incentives to residential and commercial customers.

At this point, the City of Cincinnati does not partner with Duke Energy Ohio to promote participation in their energy efficiency programs. On the state level, the Mayor of Cincinnati advocated for the Ohio EERS (SB221) to remain in place.

Last Updated: December 2014

Energy Efficiency Targets & Funding Agreements List All

Cincinnati’s utilities do not have a local target. The City of Cincinnati advocated heavily for initial passage of SB 221 to support state targets, and subsequently defended it before requirements were lifted in 2014. The city aggregates electricity for residential and small business customers of Duke Energy Ohio and the utility has an agreement to fund efficiency programs in Cincinnati as part of the aggregation agreement.

Last Updated: February 2015

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

Smart meters are available within Duke Energy Ohio’s service area. Duke Energy Ohio encourages the use of benchmarking to increase energy savings, but they do not provide building managers or owners with automatic whole-building benchmarking data for input into Portfolio Manager. Duke Energy Ohio provides community-wide energy use data and building owners can share it with third parties. At this point, the City of Cincinnati does not advocate to the state for improvements in data provision by the utilities.

Last Updated: December 2014

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

The Greater Cincinnati Water Works has not yet established a water efficiency goal, and does not have funded programs to help customers save water.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

MSD is working to reduce energy consumption by auditing and improving light fixtures and the heating and cooling systems at wastewater treatment plants. MSD also self generates energy at wastewater treatment plants by using dewatered sludge to fire two incinerators.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Cincinnati does not have policies, programs, or incentive structures in place to encourage green stormwater management on private property, but MSD has funded public projects that include the goal of improving green infrastructure.

Last Updated: December 2014

Score: 11.5 out of 28 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving Cincinnati is the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA). SORTA provides the public transportation for the city and broader metropolitan area, including bus services. The Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky MPO is in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Cincinnati and surrounding jurisdictions, including communities in Northern Kentucky. Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation and Engineering is charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: December 2014

Location Efficiency List All

Cincinnati adopted the Cincinnati Form-Based Code in May 2013. Four neighborhoods — College Hill, Madisonville, Walnut Hills and Westwood — will be the first communities to implement this code to support the revitalization of their neighborhood business districts. Residential developments with 20 or fewer housing units do not have to provide parking and developments with more than 20 units must provide 0.75 spaces per each housing unit over the 20th unit. Cincinnati has not yet written or codified a Complete Streets Policy and there are no incentives available through the city to promote location efficiency.

Last updated: December 2014

Mode Shift List All

Transportation and Land Use Planning

Cincinnati has not yet implemented mode share or VMT reduction targets. 

Car and Bicycle Sharing

ZipCar is currently available to the residents and visitors of Cincinnati. Cincinnati implemented  Red Bike in 2014. 

Transportation Demand Management Programs

Cincinnati has not yet implemented transportation demand management programs to reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicle trips or trips during rush hour.

Last updated: February 2015

Transit List All

The SORTA transit system that serves Cincinnati received $112,165,277 in total funding in 2012. This funding level is $133 per resident in the service territory of the agency. In comparison, 2011 spending on roads and parking by the city was $102,237,171 or $344 per city resident. This results in a ratio of per capita regional transit funding to per capita city highway and parking funding of 0.39 to 1.

The Transit Connectivity Index measures how many transit rides are available per week within walking distance from the average household. Cincinnati’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 20,650, putting it inthe mid-high range category (20,000 - 50,000) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: December 2014

Efficient Vehicles and Driver Behavior List All

At this time, Cincinnati does not offer incentives for citizens to purchase hybrid, plug-in, or EV vehicles. There are no incentives available for the construction of commercial or private EV charging infrastructure. The local government has not yet made any EV charging stations available for public use.

Cincinnati has not yet established efficient driving rules, such as an anti-idling ordinance, for private vehicles. Municipal staff from Cincinnati engage with the Clean Fuels Ohio Coalition

Last updated: December 2014

Freight List All

There are 19 intermodal freight facilities within Cincinnati’s boundaries, 18 of which we classify as efficient because they are port- or rail-capable. Cincinnati’s share of regional freight traffic in 2011, normalized by population, is 7,789 ton-miles. As a result, there are 2.311 efficient intermodal facilities per thousand ton-miles of freight traffic, putting the city in the highest category for this metric (2+) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: December 2014