State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Columbus, OH

38.50Scored out of 100Updated 5/2015
Local Government Operations
Score: 7 out of 15 points
Local Government Summary List All

The Green Memo II articulates Columbus’s energy-related goals and strategies for its internal government operations. Columbus released the Green Memo III in February 2015, which has updated energy and climate goals for the city. Columbus aims to achieve its government operations goals by reducing energy use in municipal buildings, retrofitting traffic and streetlights, reducing fleet fuel usage, and increasing waste diversion and recycling rates. The Mayor’s Office of Environmental Stewardship manages and coordinates efforts to achieve government operations goals and also works with stakeholders from the community.

Last updated: May 2015

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

Columbus’s stated goals are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2% each year until 2030, with a short-term goal to reduce emissions from city operations by 10% by 2015. The city did not formally adopt these goals through legislation or an executive order.

According to data in Columbus’s 2014 submission to CDP, the city reduced its local government operations’ greenhouse gas emissions by 5% between 2005 and 2013. The city is not currently on track for its local government goal. 

Last updated: December 2014

Performance Management Strategies List All

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

Columbus releases annual progress reports on the city’s sustainability efforts for the Get Green Columbus Initiative, but the reports do not detail progress toward the overall government operations goal. The city has established a website,, for use in communicating sustainability initiatives. Also, the city registered its municipal buildings in Columbus’s GreenSpot program, which is a community-wide program to recognize green buildings. The city does not use an independent firm for evaluation, monitoring, and verification of progress toward goals. 

The Mayor’s Office of Environmental Stewardship houses three fulltime employees that work on energy-related initiatives and the city hired an energy manager in 2014. In addition, there are 22 green coordinators that work on the implementation of the Get Green Columbus initiative within their departments and divisions. If employees save the city money through efficiencies, they are paid 10% or up to $7,000 of the documented savings. In addition, Human Resources Department has an annual employee recognition and award ceremony.

Last updated: December 2014

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

The city has adopted its Green Fleet Action Plan and provides annual progress reports. The plan includes targets to reduce overall fuel use of the city fleet by 2% by 2014, reduce petroleum use by 5% by 2014, and purchase at least 50% "green" light-duty vehicles. It also integrates right-sizing of the fleet and promotion of the anti-idling policy. The anti-idling policy was formally adopted by Executive Order 2005-02, which also calls for improved trip planning and encourages carpooling. 

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

Columbus has not adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. The city has piloted LED streetlights and may make a LED streetlight policy in the future. Pedestrian signals are now all LEDs and future installations will be LED as well. Streetlights are controlled by a photoelectric control to come on between dusk and dawn.

New Buildings and Equipment

City-owned buildings and any building in which city dollars are invested must be LEED-certified, but we could not confirm if the requirements specifically emphasized completion of the energy efficiency elements of the certification. We could not confirm if the city's green procurement policy calls for energy-efficient equipment.

Last updated: December 2014

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

The city benchmarks over 90% of its municipal buildings in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. There is no retrofit policy in place, but the city is exploring options to reduce energy consumption systematically. The city is in final negotiations with the energy services company AMERESCO for upgrades to several buildings.

Sustainable Infrastructure Policies

Columbus replaces an asset when its maintenance cost exceeds the value to the asset and the city has an asset management team that looks at life-cycle costs.

Public Employees

We could not confirm if Columbus has a telecommuting policy. We also could not confirm if the city has other policies, such as a flex schedule policy, in place to minimize employee commutes to the office. The city has a bike-sharing program for city employees to travel to lunch or meetings and makes bus passes available for employees.

Last updated: December 2014

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 2 out of 10 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The Mayor’s Office of Environmental Stewardship is responsible for implementing the city’s energy efficiency goals.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

The city’s Green Memo III establishes community-wide energy and greenhouse gas emissions goals. The city has a community-wide goal to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions 20% below a 2013 baseline by 2020. These goals have been formally adopted by the Columbus City Council.

The city releases annual progress reports that track progress toward these goals. However, the city is not currently on track to meet its adopted targets.

Last updated: January 2017

Performance Management StrategiesList All

The city releases annual progress reports including updates on general community-wide environmental and sustainability efforts. Columbus has city staff dedicated to community-wide efficiency efforts; a portion of the Environmental Steward’s time is spent on community-wide efficiency efforts and the city’s GreenSpot Coordinator focuses fulltime on promoting and engaging the community on resource conservation. We did not find information regarding other performance management strategies, including the use of independent EM&V to evaluate savings from community-wide efficiency projects and the existence of dedicated funding for community-wide energy efficiency programs.

Last updated: December 2014

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

Columbus does not have programs or policies to plan for future district energy systems.

Last updated: January 2017

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

Green Memo III established an urban heat island mitigation goal to plant 300,000 trees by 2020 and increase the city’s urban tree canopy from 22% to 27%.

We did not find information on any policies that require or incentivize low impact development (LID) or conservation of private land. The city has not adopted a private tree protection ordinance.

Last updated: January 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 6.5 out of 29 points
Buildings Summary List All

Columbus has some building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including above code requirements and incentives for efficient buildings. The Department of Building and Zoning Services manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Columbus.

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 Columbus comply with the state mandated codes. The City of Columbus has in the past partnered with other agencies to lobby for keeping the IECC intact, but has not yet begun advocating to the state level for increased stringency in the commercial building energy codes.


Residential buildings in Columbus comply with the state mandated codes. The City of Columbus has in the past partnered with other agencies to lobby for keeping the IECC intact, but has not yet begun advocating to the state level for increased stringency in the residential building energy codes.

Last Updated: January 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Columbus reported a budget of $14,200,400 for the building code department in 2013. This level of spending normalizes to $40 per $1,000 of residential construction spending for the city. Columbus 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. Columbus does not provide upfront support to developers or owners for energy code compliance.

Last Updated: December 2014

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Building Energy Savings Goals

Columbus Energy Challenge, launched in June 2014, includes a goal to reduce energy use from buildings over 50,000 square feet by 20% by 2020.

Green Building Requirements

Residential housing projects that receive city funding are required to be built to the AWARE standards.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Columbus 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

For commercial and multifamily residential construction, Columbus offers grants for LEED certification through the Green Columbus Fund.

Last Updated: December 2014

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Columbus does not have mandatory or voluntary programs to encourage building benchmarking in any sector.

In June 2014, the City of Columbus, launched the Columbus Energy Challenge, with a goal to reduce energy use from buildings over 50,000 square feet by 20% by 2020 and benchmark 70% of those buildings (approx. 680 buildings). Currently 41 buildings (10.5 million sq ft) are benchmarked through the program.

Last Updated: December 2014

Comprehensive Efficiency Services List All

A whole-house retrofit program is available to Columbus residents through American Electric Power Ohio (AEP).

December 2014

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 9.5 out of 18 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

American Electric Power (AEP Ohio; Ohio Power), an investor-owned utilities (IOU), is the primary electric utility serving the City of Columbus. Columbia Gas Ohio, an IOU, is Columbus’s primary gas utility. The City of Columbus is an active promoter of the energy efficiency programs. 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. On the state level, Columbus strongly advocates for additional spending requirements for energy efficiency projects for all of its utilities.

The Columbus Department of Public Utilities provides drinking water services, wastewater treatment, and stormwater management to the City of Columbus.

Last Updated: February 2015

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2013, according to AEP Ohio, they spent $78,276,000 on electric efficiency programs, representing 2.34% of its annual revenue. Due to these programs, AEP Ohio reported a net incremental electricity savings of 593,700MWh, representing 1.27% of its retail sales. In the same year, Columbia Gas Ohio reported through a data request spending $24,992,700 on natural gas efficiency programs. The expenditures normalize to $19.33 per residential customer. Due to these programs, Columbia Gas Ohio reported a net incremental savings of 4.2MMTherms, representing .23% of its retail sales. Spending on electricity and natural gas represented in this section covers the entire Ohio service territory, not just Columbus. AEP Ohio offers electric efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers. Columbia Gas Ohio similarly offers natural gas efficiency programs to residential and business customers.

The City of Columbus promotes utility energy efficiency rebate programs through the GreenSpot program, the Get Green Columbus website, as well as the Columbus Energy Challenge. In addition, the city regularly speaks to groups about the utility rebate programs available.

The city also works with AEP Ohio to assist local manufacturers in becoming more sustainable through expanding the E3 program at the federal, state, and local levels. On the state level, the Mayor of Columbus has advocated for the Ohio EERS (SB221) to remain in place.

Last Updated: December 2014

Energy Efficiency Targets & Funding Agreements List All

Columbus’s utilities do not have a local target. The City of Columbus does not have a franchise agreement or municipal aggregation contract in place to ensure energy efficiency while powering city operations.

Last Updated: February 2015

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, AEP Ohio makes use of the Green Button data sharing platform. AEP Ohio does not provide building managers or owners with automatic whole-building benchmarking data for input into Portfolio Manager. AEP Ohio and Columbia Gas of Ohio report annual citywide aggregated electricity usage for the city’s reporting and tracking. AEP Ohio signed on with the City of Columbus to partner on the Department of Energy's Better Buildings Initiative, Energy Data Accelerator, to facilitate better access to energy usage data.

Last Updated: December 2014

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

The City of Columbus sponsors the GreenSpot program that encourages residents and businesses to adopt conservation measures. In order to become a GreenSpot, the resident or business must adopt specific water conservation measures. Over 10,000 residents and businesses have become GreenSpots. As part of the Green Spot program, the city cost shares rain barrels for residents. However, the City of Columbus has not set a water efficiency goal.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

The City of Columbus has not yet established an energy efficiency goal for municipal water operations, nor are there any energy efficiency programs in place. Both of their wastewater treatment plants generate biogas and use the biogas in place of natural gas to run the plants. In 2013, over 70% of the gas used at Southerly Wastewater Treatment plant was self-generated biogas.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The city’s stormwater drainage manual establishes stormwater control requirements for all new public and private development and redevelopment. It requires post-construction stormwater controls for both water quality and water quantity. The fully-funded stormwater credit rule includes a green infrastructure credit, and a clean river fee credit. For homeowners there is also the Residential Backyard Conservation Program which provides resources for conserving water, managing run-off, and planting indigenous.

In addition, the City of Columbus is committed to using green infrastructure in all city projects. For example, the City’s Public Utilities Complex recently added two new parking lots, and 100% of the stormwater (quality and quantity) is being treated by pervious pavement and bioretention swales. The city also recently obtained permission from Ohio EPA to explore using green infrastructure to replace tunnels to control sewer overflows. This program, known as Blueprint Columbus, will add approximately 20 acres of green infrastructure on public property.

Last Updated: December 2014

Score: 13.5 out of 28 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the City of Columbus is the Central Ohio Transit Authority. COTA also provides the public transportation for the city and the broader metropolitan area, including bus service. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Columbus, and many surrounding middle-Ohio cities and towns. The Department of Public Service is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: December 2014

Location Efficiency List All

The Columbus municipal planning code includes citywide commercial zoning overlays to encourage pedestrian- and transit-friendly development in existing corridors while traditional neighborhood development zoning encourages a mix of residential types and commercial properties. The city requires at least 0.75 to 2 parking spaces per residential unit depending on the number of dwelling units per building. Columbus adopted its complete streets policy in 2008, through Ordinance No. 1987-2008. The adoption of the policy encourages the inclusion of complete streets principles in all road construction and maintenance projects. As an incentive to promote location-efficient real estate development, the zoning code includes the use of tax incentives in the downtown zoning district to attract high-density development to the downtown area.

Last updated: December 2014

Mode Shift List All

Transportation and Land Use Planning

Columbus has not yet written or implemented a policy to encourage improved integration of transportation and land use planning such as a VMT reduction or mode share target.

Car and Bicycle Sharing

Columbus is evaluating a proposal to establish car sharing with Car2Go. The city is served by a bikesharing program, CoGo with over 30 operational stations.

Transportation Demand Management Programs

The city supports the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) Ride Solutions program, which is a carpooling, van pooling, bus riding, and bike buddy program. They host trainings for city employees and area businesses. The city also offer pre-tax bus passes as well as support employee’s cycling through free showers, bike parking, and discounted passes to CoGo bikeshare. 

Last updated: December 2014

Transit List All

The COTA transit system that serves Columbus received $133909751 in total funding in 2012. This funding level is $124 per resident in the service territory of the agency. In comparison, 2011 spending on roads and parking by the city was $190,206,364, or $111 per city resident. This results in a ratio of per capita regional transit funding to per capita city highway and parking funding of 1.11 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 Columbus's Transit Connectivity Index value is 8,562, putting it in a low mid-range category (5,000 - 10,000) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: December 2014

Efficient Vehicles and Driver Behavior List All

At this time, Columbus 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 city owns 2 charging stations available for public use. 

Columbus has not yet established efficient driving rules, such as an anti-idling ordinance, for private vehicles. Columbus is part of the Clean Fuels Ohio Coalition. 

Last updated: December 2014

Freight List All

There are 27 intermodal freight facilities within the City of Columbus’s boundaries, 23 of which we classify as efficient because they are port- or rail-capable. Columbus’ share of regional freight traffic in 2011, normalized by population, is 18,638 ton-miles.  As a result there are 1.234 efficient intermodal facilities per thousand ton-miles of freight traffic, putting the city in the second-highest category for this metric (1-1.999) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: December 2014