State and Local Policy Database

Houston

City Scorecard Rank

25

Houston, TX

40.50Scored out of 100Updated 5/2017
Local Government Score:
5.5 out of 10 points
Local Government Summary List All

Houston had a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from local government operations, however, the city has not updated this target. Responsibility for implementing strategies to reduce pollution and increase energy efficiency is split between the Mayor’s Office and the Energy Section of the General Services Department.

Last updated: February 2017

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

Houston had a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from local government operations by 36% by 2016. The Planning Department is leading the effort to create a general plan for the city and the city has drafted a sustainability plan for municipal operations. The City of Houston is a Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge partner and has committed 30 million square feet, 7 million from municipal buildings, to achieve a 20% reduction in energy by 2020 from a 2008 baseline.

Stringency

N/A

Progress

N/A

Reporting

The City of Houston annually reports to the Carbon Disclosure Project on its government and community sustainability initiatives. The data is made publicly available through the CDP website. In addition, Schneider Electric provides energy savings reports as part of their energy service performance contract (ESPC) with the city.  

Last updated: April 2017

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

Houston does not have a fuel efficiency requirement for its vehicle fleet. Approximately 50% of the city’s non-specialty, light-duty fleet has been replaced with hybrid vehicles and the city has 27 Nissan LEAFs and 15 plug-in hybrids in its fleet, although it is unclear if the vehicle replacements were due to formalized policy. The city started Houston Fleet Share through which 50 city-owned fleet vehicles were outfitted with ZipCar’s proprietary car-sharing technology, which will help right-size the fleet. The city of Houston also uses an online system and GPS technology in approximately 2,000 public vehicles but we were not able to confirm if this technology is actually used to increase public fleet efficiency.

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

Houston has not adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. CenterPoint Energy, in partnership with Houston, will convert approximately 165,000 streetlights from high pressure sodium, mercury vapor and metal halide to LED technology. This replacement project will reduce the city’s streetlight energy usage by approximately 50% and save the city over $28 million over the life of the project. Streetlights have photo sensors so they only operate when needed.

New Buildings and Equipment

Houston strives to meet minimum LEED requirements without going through the formal LEED certification process. The city's green building policy that sets a target of LEED Silver certification for new construction, replacement facilities, and major renovations of city-owned or -funded buildings and facilities with more than 10,000 square feet of occupied space. Administrative Procedure 7-1 City Energy Efficiency Policy (Section 7.2.7 Equipment Purchasing) specifies that all purchases of equipment, appliances, and computers should be ENERGY STAR– rated when feasible.

Last updated: April 2017

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

100% of Houston’s municipal buildings are currently benchmarked. The City has undergone a comprehensive retrofit strategy using Energy Savings Performance Contracts. 6 million square feet of municipal buildings have been retrofitted, with energy reductions approaching 30%. Nearly $70 million have been invested.

Public Employees

The city participates in Flex in the City, a program implemented by the city to encourage employers to try alternative scheduling options such as compressed work weeks, telecommuting, and using flexible start and end times.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 3.5 out of 12 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability leads Houston’s implementation of its general community-wide sustainability initiatives.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

Houston’s Mayor Parker committed the city to an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2050 at the Mayors' National Climate Action Agenda. Houston is a Better Buildings Challenge partner and has committed to a 20% energy use reduction by 2020 for 30 million square feet of building space in Houston. The city is in the process of developing a formal sustainability action plan, but we were unable to find evidence that this goal has been formally adopted through either a city council resolution or mayoral executive order.

Houston does not release regular reports on progress toward energy efficiency goals.

Last updated: January 2017

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

Million Trees + Houston established a three- to five-year goal to plant one million trees.

A cool roof policy is included in the city’s Energy Conservation Code. The code requires cool roofs on all commercial buildings. Residential buildings with low sloped roofs must have minimum solar reflectance of 0.70 and thermal emittance of 0.75.

The city has also provides development incentives for preservation of open space. The city has not adopted a private tree protections ordinance.

Last updated: January 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 14 out of 28 points
Buildings Summary List All

Houston has some building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including strengthening amendments to the Texas Building Energy Code and incentives for energy efficient buildings. The Building Code Enforcement Branch of the City of Houston manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City.

Last Updated: January 2017

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

The State of Texas allows its local jurisdictions to adopt and amend building energy codes that are at least as stringent as the Texas Building Energy Code. The minimum state standard for single-family residential construction must comply with the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC). All other residential and commercial building construction must comply with the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). State-funded building construction must comply with ASHRAE 90.1-2013. To learn more about the building energy code requirements for the State of Texas, please visit the State Policy Database.

Commercial

Houston adopted the 2015 IECC for commercial buildings with amendments, effective December 2016. The city also adopted ASHRAE 90.1-2013 with amendments, effective December 2016. 

Residential

Houston adopted the 2015 IECC for residential buildings with amendments, effective October 2016. 

Last Updated: March 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Houston does not have internal staff dedicated solely to energy code compliance. The city requires building code officials to complete energy code training. Additionally, the code officials attend and vote in the IECC code development process. Houston requires participation in third-party plan review and performance testing for building energy code compliance. Houston provides upfront code support for all builders and developers through the Green Building Resource Center in the Code Enforcement Department. The director of the program offers plan reviews, cost-effective green options, and energy efficiency classes. 

Last Updated: January 2017

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Green Building Requirements

Private commercial and residential buildings in Houston are not subject to green building requirements. However, the City encourages private sector investment in energy efficiency through its City Energy Project.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Houston 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

Houston offers tax abatements and expedited permitting to commercial buildings that meet LEED standards. Commercial building owners can receive grants for energy retrofits through the City's Energy Efficiency Incentive Program. Houston offers weatherization to income-qualified homes. Energy efficiency financing is available to commercial and multifamily building owners through  PACE Houston.

Last Updated: January 2017

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Commercial

Houston has started a voluntary commercial benchmarking program, the Green Office Challenge, to encourage commercial buildings to benchmark and share their energy usage data.

Residential

Houston does not have a benchmarking program for residential buildings. The the multiple listing service which serves the Houston region, Houston Green MLS, includes many fields for energy efficiency features of homes listed on the market.

Last Updated: January 2017

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 6.5 out of 20 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

CenterPoint Energy, an investor-owned utility (IOU), is the primary gas and electric utility serving the city of Houston. The City of Houston is an active promoter of CenterPoint’s energy efficiency programs. The State of Texas requires electric utilities to offset load-growth through end-use energy efficiency, mandated through an EERS. The utilities must also submit their energy savings goals to the Public Utility Commission of Texas. To learn more about the state-requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Texas page of the State Database. On the state level, Houston strongly advocates for additional spending requirements for energy efficiency projects for all of its utilities.

The Houston Public Works and Engineering Department is the municipal utility that provides Houston with drinking water services, wastewater treatment, and stormwater management.

Last Updated: January 2017

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2015, according to CenterPoint’s demand side management report, they achieved 155,048 MWh in net incremental savings, representing 0.18% of retail sales. To achieve these savings, CenterPoint spent $37,996,954 on electric efficiency programs in 2015, which amounts to 1.32% of annual revenue. CenterPoint did not spend or did not report spending or savings on natural gas efficiency programs. Spending on electricity efficiency represented in this section covers the entire Texas service territory, not just Houston. CenterPoint Energy offers natural gas and electric efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers.

At this time, the City of Houston does not have a formal partnership with CenterPoint Energy in the form of a jointly-developed or administered energy saving strategy, plan, or agreement.

Last Updated: January 2017

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs

CenterPoint Energy offers the Hard-to-Reach Standard Offer Program to qualified low-income residential customers. Through this program, incentives are paid to project sponsors for qualifying measures installed in retrofit applications that provide verifiable demand and energy savings to low-income customers. Qualifying measures include installation of insulation, air sealing, replacement of air conditioning duct systems, refrigerator replacement, water-saving measures, and lighting fixtures. The program does not target specific households or streamline eligibility requirements. CenterPoint markets the program through email and internet campaigns, relevant meetings and workshops, and statewide outreach opportunities.

In 2015, according to CenterPoint Energy, it achieved 3,843 MWh in energy savings from its low-income programs, while spending $3,777,530 on its low-income efficiency portfolio. These programs served 1,023 low-income customers, with each household receiving an average of $3,692 and saving 3756 kWh. The program only addresses electric end uses. CenterPoint did not report natural gas spending nor savings for its low-income program.

Multifamily Programs

CenterPoint Energy offers the Multifamily MTP program. This program encompasses three different segments: Multifamily Water and Space Heating, High Performance Multifamily, and Multifamily Direct Install. The Multifamily Water and Space Heating segment includes upgrades to boiler systems, individual gas water and space heating units, and combination gas water heating and space heating systems. The High Performance Multifamily segment targets new buildings that are built to ENERGY STAR® version 3.0 standards or above current energy code via the high-performance path with pay-for-performance based kWh incentives. The Multifamily Direct Install Program offers property owners and managers a free visual audit of existing units and provides eligible properties with no-cost direct install measures, which may include CFLs, water savings measures (faucet aerator, low-flow showerhead), water heater tank wrap, and water heater pipe insulation. In addition, a tenant education handout will be left in the unit explaining the benefits of energy efficiency and tips on how to save energy.

Last Updated: June 2017

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, CenterPoint and their local retail electric providers have committed to providing the Green Button data sharing platform. CenterPoint does not provide energy usage data to building managers for input into benchmarking services. CenterPoint does provide community aggregated data to the City of Houston for their community-wide greenhouse gas inventory. The City of Houston, as part of the City Energy Project, is working to accelerate access to energy data to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

Last Updated: January 2017

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

Houston does not have any jointly administered water and energy efficiency programs. Houston has a water conservation target of reducing unaccounted water use by 11% by 2020, as well as a target to reduce residential water usage by little more than 1 gallon per day by 2019, or a 1.6% reduction over five years. The City has committed both labor and resources in support of its Waterworks Education Center, which currently serves as an education center for water-related efforts in the community. The City recently established a water conservation task force to develop conservation goals and best practices.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

Houston’s Department of Public Works has not yet established an energy efficiency goal for water operations. There are currently no programs in place for energy efficiency in water operations. The City’s water system does not self-generate its own energy.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The City of Houston leads the $205 million Bayou Greenways 2020 initiative, which includes improvements to stormwater management through green infrastructure as one of its objectives. Bayou Greenways 2020 is a public-private partnership between Houston Parks Board, the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, and the Harris County Flood Control District. The initiative will create a continuous parks system along Houston’s major waterways, transform 3,000 underutilized acres into public greenspace, and add 80 new miles of hike-and-bike trails to the city.

Last Updated: January 2017

Transportation
Score: 11 out of 30 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the city of Houston is The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. METRO also provides the public transportation for the city and the broader metropolitan area, including bus and light rail service. The Houston-Galveston Area Council is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Houston and Galveston, as well as many surrounding towns and counties. The Department of Administration and Regulatory Affairs is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: January 2017

Location Efficiency List All

Houston has not yet implemented location-efficient zoning codes to be used across the city or in any specific neighborhood. Reduced parking requirements are provided and shared use parking agreements are allowed in areas around transit stations and other mixed-use projects where reduced parking requirements are most appropriate for further encouraging the accommodation of other non-vehicular modes of transportation. In addition, Houston’s parking rules allow the creation of special parking areas for the purposes to businesses, reduced parking rations, and sharking purposes. As an incentive to promote location-efficient real estate development, the city passed Ordinance 2012-739 in 2012, establishing and economic development program called the Downtown Living Initiative Chapter 380 Program. The program promotes economic development and stimulates business and commercial activity in the target area by providing economic and other development incentives for new multifamily residential mixed-use developments.

Last updated: January 2017

Mode Shift List All

Modal Share Targets

Houston has not yet developed targets to promote a modal shift in transportation.

Car and Bicycle Sharing

Houston is served both by zipcar and Enterprise CarShare. The city is served by a bikesharing program, Houston B-cycle with over 30 operational stations.

Complete Streets

Houston passed a Complete Streets policy in 2013.

Last updated: January 2017

Transit List All

The Harris County MTA, Harris County Community Services Department, Office of Transit Services, Harris County Improvement District, and Greater Southeast Management District transit systems that serve Houston have received $861,474,434 in average annual funding from 2011-2015. This funding level is $129.41 per resident in the service territory of the agency, putting it in the fourth highest category (100-149) available in the City Scorecard

The Transit Connectivity Index measures transit service levels. It is based on the number of bus routes and train stations within walking distance for households scaled by frequency of service. The City of Houston’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 12, putting it in the fourth highest category (5-14) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: January 2017

Last updated: December 2014

Efficient VehiclesList All

At this time, Houston does not offer incentives for citizens to purchase hybrid, plug-in, or EV vehicles. However, Houston offers the Houston Drives Electric initiative. The 2011 Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan mapped Houston’s way to securing funding and installing charging ports. The City of Houston has made 105 EV charging stations available for public use.  The city is part of the Houston-Galveston Clean Cities Coalition. 

Last updated: January 2017

Freight List All

Sustainable freight plan

Houston does not have a sustainable freight transportation plan in place nor does the city has any policies that address freight efficiency

Smart freight

Houston is exploring the use of an application to operationalize truck drayage scheduling.

Last updated: January 2017

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

We  could not confirm if Houston has a sustinable transportation in place in order to reduce VMTs or greenhouse gas emissions. 

Last updated: January 2017

Low-Income in Transit-Oriented Development Areas List All

Houston outlines policies to encourage the development of higher density housing—including affordable housing—within urban centers that are well served by multiple transportation modes within its’ Urban Houston Framework. In addition, the city’s Midtown TIRZ project plan requires one-third of all investments be dedicated to affordable housing along the rail line for both families and individuals to ensure a mixed-income neighborhood that sustains Midtown.

Last updated: January 2017