State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Denver, CO

58.50Scored out of 100Updated 5/2015
Local Government Operations
Score: 11.5 out of 15 points
Local Government Summary List All

The Climate Action Plan and the Greenprint Denver Plan detail Denver’s aim to lead by example on matters of energy and greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, Denver is focusing on opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable energy at Denver’s airport, improvements in the city fleet, and the development of carbon neutral buildings.

Last updated: December 2014

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

Denver's 2020 goals include a target to reduce energy consumed in city-operated buildings and vehicles by 20% compared to a 2012 baseline. All of the 2020 Sustainability Goals are authorized in Executive Order 123. We did not collect information on the extent to which formal agency stakeholder groups were involved in setting these goals.

According to data supplied by city staff, the city reduced its local government operations greenhouse gas emissions by 6% between 2011 and 2013. The city is on track for its local government goal. 

Last updated: February 2015

Performance Management Strategies List All

Strategic Initiatives (SI), a division of General Services, receives an annual allocation towards their “Sustainability Fund” which is then used to fund energy efficiency and water conservation related projects. The intent is to focus on a diverse number of sustainability opportunities, but also focus on initiatives that would generate energy and water rebates which can assist in replenishing the fund for future projects.

SI publishes an annual report which details the city’s utility budget, progress on the Better Building Challenge goal, and other miscellaneous details related to energy consumption. The city uses independent firms quite frequently for energy audits and commissioning projects of city buildings. They have not, however, been used for M&V since the city typically does this in-house through trending and monitoring in EnergyCAP.

SI has a small staff of six individuals for the tracking of energy expenditures, implementing sustainability efforts, and record management. Within this organization is the position of Energy Manager which is dedicated to monitoring energy expenditures and initiating energy improvements throughout the city’s portfolio of buildings. SI has also recently started Customer Commendation Certificates to recognize organizations that have contributed to energy savings through creative programs and initiatives

Last updated: February 2015

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

The 2020 government operations energy goal includes reducing the energy consumed in city vehicles by 20% from 2012 levels. Chapter 3 of Executive Order 123 establishes a green fleet policy that requires light-duty vehicles in need of replacement to be replaced by the most fuel-efficient and least polluting vehicles possible. The executive order also calls for the use of GPS tracking to reduce vehicle miles traveled. In accordance with the executive order, the city developed an anti-idling policy prohibiting city vehicles from idling for longer than five minutes.

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

Streetlights are owned by the electric utility, Xcel Energy. Denver is continuing to work with Xcel in the current Demand-Side Management docket 14A-1057EG - DSM Plan to establish terms for a comprehensive LED replacement program for municipal street lights. Denver has an LED pilot project of 69 lights in the Highlands neighborhood of the city in conjunction with Xcel Energy. Denver is also replacing each of its intersection street lights to LED whenever intersection work is done. Outdoor lighting is scheduled.

New Buildings and Equipment

Chapter 2 of Executive Order 123 requires all new city projects and major remodels to achieve LEED BD+C Gold certification, with a goal of achieving LEED Platinum, and to meet ENERGY STAR guidelines. Any entity using city bonding capacity must design and build to achieve LEED Gold certification. We could not confirm if the requirements specifically emphasized completion of the energy efficiency elements of the certification. The executive order also details Denver’s environmentally preferable procurement policy that requires assessing total cost of ownership. Agencies are directed to procure energy-efficient products and services.

Last updated: February 2015

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

The city is a DOE Better Buildings Challenge Community Partner, with 6.6 million square feet committed, including municipal buildings. In conjunction with the Better Buildings Challenge, the city will be benchmarking approximately 70% of the total city government–owned square footage on a monthly basis throughout the year. At this time there is not a policy in place for retrofits. The city has audited and retro-commissioned 65 city buildings. A formalized process that incorporates retro- and ongoing commissioning and facility condition assessments was expected to be finalized and in place in 2013.

Sustainable Infrastructure Policies

In June 2010, the public works manager signed a memorandum entitled "Our Commitment to Total Cost of Ownership Project Management," reminding employees to take a life-cycle approach that rewards strategies that reduce energy use, waste, and water use, but this is not a formal policy. In 2007, the citizens of Denver voted to dedicate an additional $2.5 million in increased property taxes to repair deteriorating infrastructure.

Public Employees

The city allows both telecommuting and flexible schedules (Section 9-80 of the Career Services Rules) although these options must be approved by the employee’s agency. Denver participates in and subsidizes the costs of the Eco Pass and ValuPass programs with the Regional Transportation District (RTD). Both programs allow employees to use RTD's bus and light rail services as alternate transportation to and from work.

Last updated: February 2015

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

The city’s community initiatives related to energy efficiency are primarily lead by the Denver Department of Environment Health, which manages the Denver Energy Challenge.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

Denver has formally adopted its 2020 Sustainability Goals that aim to hold total energy consumed in Denver for buildings, mobility and industrial processes below the total consumed in 2012, while decreasing fossil fuel consumption by 50%. In addition, Denver adopted the goal of reducing energy consumption of commercial and multifamily buildings 10% by 2020 and 20% in the decade following when the Energize Denver initiative was announced.

Denver adopted a 2020 Sustainability Goal to reduce Denver’s greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels. Denver’s long-term climate goal is articulated in its 2015 Climate Action Plan, which is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 from a 2005 baseline.

The Denver Office of Sustainability is required to report on progress toward energy efficiency goals on its website. The city is not on track to achieve its community-wide energy goal; however, the city is projected to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions within 25% of its near-term 2020 goal.

Last updated: January 2017

Performance Management StrategiesList All

Periodic community updates are released when energy and climate milestones are achieved, but we could not confirm if updates are released annually. The Denver Energy Challenge provides a free energy advisor for residents, low interest energy loans, and a contractor training and development program. The city contracts with CLEAResult to provide the advising service and to monitor and evaluate the annual energy savings achieved through the program. Denver separately contracts with ICF International to compare utility data to deemed savings calculations and determine actual savings. The Department of Environmental Health has .75 FTE focused on the Denver Energy Challenge, 1 FTE on Certifiably Green Denver and 1.5 FTE on large commercial efficiency programs, such as the City Energy Project. The Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships has 1.3 fulltime staff dedicated to the energy efficiency program. We could not confirm if Denver has a dedicated funding source or budgeting mechanism for community-wide energy management or efficiency investments.

Last updated: February 2015

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

The city of Denver has targeted several high priority areas for district energy systems and has provided technical assistance on numerous projects.

Last updated: January 2017

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

As part of its Game Plan, Denver adopted a goal to have 18% urban tree canopy coverage in the city by 2025. Denver’s energy loan program, implemented through the Denver Energy Challenge, provides low-interest financing for cool roofs. The city has also passed a private tree protection ordinance. We did not find information on any policies that require or incentivize conservation of private land.

Last updated: January 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 9.5 out of 29 points
Buildings Summary List All

Denver has some building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including an energy savings target. The Development Services division within the Department of Community Planning and Development manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Denver.

Last Updated: December 2014

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

The State of Colorado is a home rule state meaning local jurisdictions may set their own building codes, if they choose to, for both residential and commercial construction. Localities which choose to set a building code must comply with the 2003 IECC at a minimum. To learn more about the building energy codes for the State of Colorado, please visit the State Policy Database.


Denver has adopted the 2015 IECC with local amendments.


Denver has adopted the 2015 IECC with local amendments.

Last Updated: January 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Denver reported a budget of $11,726,343 for the building code department in 2013. This level of spending normalizes to $14 per $1,000 of residential construction spending for the city.

The Development Services division of Community Planning & Development Department is responsible for building code compliance and enforcement. Denver has been active in informing developers and owners about the changes to the energy code through public meetings and online guidance. 

Denver 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. Denver does not provide upfront support to developers or owners for energy code compliance.

Last Updated: March 2015

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Building Energy Savings Goals

Denver has adopted an energy savings target in conjunction with its involvement as a DOE Better Buildings Challenge Community Partner. Denver has committed to a 20% reduction in energy intensity by 2020. This commitment spans 6.64 million square feet of private building stock.

Green Building Requirements

Executive Order 123 requires all new city projects and major remodels to be built and certified to LEED BD+C Gold Certification, with a goal of achieving LEED Platinum, and meet ENERGY STAR guidelines. All existing and future city-owned and operated facilities will incorporate all applicable LEED-EB O&M best practices into facility operation and maintenance. Privately-funded commercial and residential buildings are not subject to green building requirements.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Denver 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

The Denver Energy Challenge Loan is a low-cost, low-interest loan program available to both residential and commercial energy efficiency retrofit projects achieving 15% energy efficiency savings. Denver also invests in two programs that support energy efficient nonprofit facilities, the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Program and ResourceSmart for Nonprofits.


Last Updated: March 2015

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Denver has a voluntary programs to encourage building benchmarking in the commercial sector. Watts To Water is a program dedicated to energy and water use reduction from the commercial sector in the Denver metro area. Participating buildings must share data in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

 CREN provides the multiple listing service for the Denver region. The MLS has many fields to indicate energy efficiency features of the homes listed on the market.

Last Updated: December 2014

Comprehensive Efficiency Services List All

A Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is available to homeowners in Denver through Xcel Energy. A comprehensive efficiency service titled Custom Efficiency offers commercial rebates for energy savings projects. 

Last Updated: March 2015

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 13.5 out of 18 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

Xcel (Public Service Co. of Colorado), an investor-owned utility (IOU), is the primary gas and electric utility serving the City of Denver. The City of Denver is an active promoter of Xcel’s energy efficiency programs. The State of Colorado requires spending and savings targets for its utilities through an EERS as well as efficiency requirements within demand-side management plans to be filed annually. To learn more about the state-requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Colorado page of the State Database. On the state level, Denver strongly advocates for additional spending requirements for energy efficiency projects for all of its utilities.

Denver Water is an independent entity providing drinking water in Denver. The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District treats Denver’s wastewater. Denver Wastewater Management is the municipal utility charged with managing Denver’s stormwater. The Denver Energy Challenge, located in the Office of Strategic Partnerships, administers the energy efficiency programs in partnership with the utilities.

Last Updated: February 2015

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2013, according to Xcel, they spent $63,485,000 on electric efficiency programs, representing 2.44% of its annual revenue. Due to these programs, Xcel reported a net incremental electricity savings of 357,245MWh, representing 1.24% of its retail sales. In the same year, Xcel also reported spending $13,643,000 on natural gas efficiency programs. The expenditures normalize to $11.10 per residential customer. Due to these programs, Xcel reported a net incremental savings of 5.7MMTherms, representing .41% of its retail sales. Spending on electricity and natural gas represented in this section covers the entire Colorado service territory, not just Denver. Xcel offers natural gas and electric efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers.

The City of Denver partners with Xcel through the Denver Energy Challenge to cross promote programs through mailings and customer service. In 2013, Denver intervened in the 2014 DSM plan and Strategic Issues dockets.

Last Updated: December 2014

Energy Efficiency Targets & Funding Agreements List All

Denver’s utilities do not have a local target, but they are subject to state targets.

The Office of Strategic Partnerships allocates $2 million annually from Denver's Xcel franchise agreement towards single family, multi-family and nonprofit low-income weatherization services. Additionally, the Denver Energy Challenge expended over $3 million in 2012 on residential and commercial energy efficiency programs and services, including energy advising, rebates, tune up programs, direct install of lighting, low-interest loan program, and workforce development. Additionally, in 2013, Xcel Energy contributed funding to the Denver 2030 District, which focuses on improving energy efficiency in the community.

Last Updated: December 2014

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, Xcel makes use of the Green Button data sharing platform. Xcel does not provide energy usage data to building managers for input into benchmarking services on an ongoing basis, but Portfolio Manager is used in the initial assessment phase of the Commercial Real Estate Efficiency program. Community-wide data is available in aggregate for the residential and commercial/industrial sectors. Denver regularly intervenes in Colorado Public Utility Commission proceedings regarding Xcel's energy efficiency portfolio and plans to advocate for policies that more easily allow utility customers to share their own data with a third party for analysis. Additionally, the City of Denver, as part of the City Energy Project, is working to accelerate access to energy data to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

Last Updated: December 2014

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

Denver Water offers free water audits to all customers as well as toilet and irrigation rebates and incentives. As part of the city’s 2020 goals, city buildings must reduce water use by 15% by 2020. City parks must reduce water use to reach an average of 18 gallons per square foot.

In addition to City of Denver’s 2020 Sustainability Goal, Denver Water’s Conservation Plan aims to accelerate the pace of water conservation in its service area and reduce overall water use from pre-2002 drought usage by 22 percent by 2016.

In addition, Denver Water has a number of conservation rules that apply to its service area.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

The City of Denver has not yet established a specific goal for energy efficiency in water services. Denver Water has implemented several energy efficiency initiatives at its pumping stations and reports its greenhouse gas emissions to The Climate Registry. As part of Denver Water’s comprehensive Operations Complex Redevelopment plan, overall energy use is expected to decrease by 5% annually. Additionally, Denver Water participates in Xcel Energy’s Process Efficiency program to identify opportunities for energy conservation specific to pumping operations.

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District also participates in Xcel Energy’s Process Efficiency program to identify opportunities for energy conservation specific to wastewater operations.

The Metro Wastewater District operates a 5MW CHP system that captures methane gas and generates electricity used on-site.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

There is no funding designated specifically for green stormwater infrastructure on public property. However, Executive Order 123 lays the foundation for low impact development in the planning, design, and construction of public stormwater infrastructure. 

Last Updated: February 2015

Score: 18.5 out of 28 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the City of Denver is the Denver Regional Transportation District. RTD-Denver also provides the public transportation for the city and the broader metropolitan area, including bus, and light rail service. The Denver Regional Council of Governments is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Denver, and many surrounding cities and counties. The Denver Department of Public Works is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: December 2014

Location Efficiency List All

Denver has a form-based/context-sensitive zoning code to encourage mixed uses in urban centers and around transit-oriented development. Form-based elements regulate all building types. Denver requires 1.25 parking spaces or less per unit in suburban neighborhoods, with a complete removal of minimum requirements in some areas. Downtown developments must provide .75 spaces per unit, with a complete removal of minimum requirements in some areas. Denver adopted its Complete Streets Policy in 2011. The adoption of the procedure encourages the inclusion of complete streets principles in all road construction and maintenance projects. 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

The 2020 Sustainability Community Mobility Goal for Denver is to reduce commuting travel in Denver done in single-occupant vehicles to no more than 60% of all trips by increasing the mode share of publlic transit, biking, and walking. Denver's comprehensive Blueprint Denver plan is the city’s primary integrated land use and transportation plan. This plan combined Transit-Oriented Development Strategic Plan and the Denver Moves plan to increase biking and pedestrian share of travel provide a complete strategy for reducing VMT in the city. 

Car and Bicycle Sharing

There are three car sharing programs currently available to the residents and visitors of Denver, Enterprise CarShare, OccasionalCar and zipcar. The city is served by a bikesharing program, Denver BCycle.

Transportation Demand Management Programs

To reduce the frequency of single-occupancy trips, a vanpool, RideArrangers, is available in Denver.

Last updated: February 2015

Transit List All

The RTD-Denver transit system that serves Denver received $1247174724 in total funding in 2012. This funding level is $445 per resident in the service territory of the agency. In comparison, 2011 spending on roads and parking by the city was $153,104,110, or $241 per city resident. This results in a ratio of per capita regional transit funding to per capita city highway and parking funding of 1.84 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 Denver’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 24,796, putting it in the second highest category (20,000 - 50,000) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: December 2014

Efficient Vehicles and Driver Behavior List All

At this time, Denver 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 12 charging stations available for public use. 

The city of Denver’s Idle Reduction Requirement prohibits the idling of any vehicle for more than five minutes in any one hour period. The city is also part of the Denver Clean Cities Coalition. 

Last updated: February 2015

Freight List All

There are 19 intermodal freight facilities within the City of Denver’s boundaries, 13 of which we classify as efficient because they are port- or rail-capable. Denver’s share of regional freight traffic in 2012, normalized by population, is 23,383 on-miles. As a result there are 0.556 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