State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Memphis, TN

25.00Scored out of 100Updated 5/2015
Local Government Operations
Score: 1.5 out of 15 points
Local Government Summary List All

The Sustainable Shelby Implementation Plan, released in 2009, lays out a broad range of environmental and economic development objectives for both Memphis and Shelby County. The plan also describes energy-related initiatives for Memphis’s local government operations, including reducing energy use in municipal facilities and creating more sustainable public procurement policies. The Office of Sustainability is responsible for overseeing these energy initiatives both within Memphis and Shelby County.

Last updated: December 2014

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

The Sustainable Shelby Implementation Plan discusses initiatives for local government operations, but it does not set energy-related goals for local government operations. The recently announced Memphis Clean and Green Initiative aims to reduce municipal energy costs by 20% annually within five years by increasing energy efficiency in municipal buildings.

Last updated: February 2015

Performance Management Strategies List All

We could not confirm if Memphis has a dedicated funding source or budgeting mechanism for local government efficiency investments. Funding for the Clean and Green Initiative will stem from revenue gained from the energy savings achieved by municipal energy efficiency programs.

As local government efficiency initiatives from the Sustainable Shelby Plan are completed, their status is tracked on the plan’s website. An independent firm does not evaluate, monitor, and verify progress toward these initiatives.

We could not confirm if Memphis has staff dedicated to energy efficiency efforts within government operations. The city plans to develop a Sustainability Scorecard Program for all city departments, with incentives for highest score and most improved divisions. This strategy has not been addressed to date.

Last updated: December 2014

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

Memphis does not have fuel efficiency requirements for the public fleet. We did not find information regarding right-sizing policies or anti-idling policies for the city fleet. 

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

We could not confirm if Memphis has adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. Streetlights are operated by the local electricity utility, MLWP, and are scheduled to operate only during the hours when they are needed. 

New Buildings and Equipment

Memphis does not have above-code requirements for municipal buildings or publicly funded buildings. The Sustainably Shelby Plan has a goal to revise procurement policies to include consideration of lifetime cost of goods, services, and equipment, but it is unclear if the policies have been revised yet.

Last updated: December 2014

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

Memphis does not have a specific benchmarking or retrofitting policy in place, but the city tracks energy use in 52 city facilities and 38 county facilities using Portfolio Manager. They track energy use in 99% of the square footage of building space owned by the Memphis Schools and Shelby County Schools. We could not confirm if Memphis has adopted a comprehensive retrofit strategy for its municipal buildings and we did not find information regarding efficiency improvements made thus far to Memphis’s municipal building stock

Sustainable Infrastructure Policies

A life-cycle cost consideration policy has been formalized in Shelby County, but not for the City of Memphis.

Public Employees

We did not find data on policies to reduce the commutes of city workers, such as flex schedules and teleworking. The city informally promotes the county's van pool program and encourages carpooling among employees, but otherwise does not offer transit benefits to city employees.

Last updated: December 2014

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 1.5 out of 10 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability leads the city’s implementation of its community-wide energy efficiency initiatives.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

In 2015, the city committed to the Compact of Mayors and is currently completing an inventory of community-wide greenhouse gas emissions. As part of complying with this commitment, the city will set reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions and complete a climate action plan by 2018.

A community driven goal of creating 800 MW of renewable energy and energy savings through energy efficiency by 2020 was endorsed by some in Memphis and Shelby County, but the city has not yet identified or implemented a community-wide energy efficiency-related target.

The joint Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability releases annual reports on progress towards broadly defined energy and climate goals in the Sustainable Shelby Plan.

Last updated: January 2017

Performance Management StrategiesList All

The Memphis Office of Sustainability has three fulltime staff that work on community-wide initiatives. We did not find other data regarding performance management strategies. Information that we were unable to obtain includes the frequency of public reporting on community-wide energy efficiency initiatives, program evaluation methods, and the existence or amount of dedicated funding for energy efficiency programs.

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

In the Sustainable Shelby Plan, Memphis and Shelby County have stated goals to develop an urban forestry program, hire a fulltime urban forester to audit the current system, develop a tree master plan, and create an initiative to plant 5,000 street trees per year. In late 2014, Memphis completed a regional tree canopy study with the University of Memphis and the Wolf River Conservancy. In 2015, the city also adopted the regional Greenprint plan that establishes a unified vision for a region-wide network of greenspaces.

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

Last updated: January 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 4.5 out of 29 points
Buildings Summary List All

Memphis does not have building sector initiatives to improve efficiency. The Department of Planning and Development manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Memphis.

Last Updated: December 2014

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

Tennessee is a home rule state, in which codes are adopted and enforced at the jurisdictional level. To learn more about the building energy codes in Tennessee, please visit the State Policy Database.


The Nashville City Council adopted the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for new commercial construction in 2012.


The Nashville City Council adopted the 2009 IECC for new residential construction in 2012.

Last Updated: January 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Memphis reported a budget of $1,940,000 for the building code department in 2013. This level of spending normalizes to $10 per $1,000 of residential construction spending for the city. Memphis 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. Memphis 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

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

Green Building Requirements

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

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Memphis 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

Tax abatements are available for residential and commercial projects using green building practices. The Mayor's Energy Challenge established a $10 million fund for low-interest loans through the Tennessee Energy Efficiency Loan Program.

Last Updated: December 2014


Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

The multiple listing service which serves the Memphis region includes very many energy efficiency fields for features of homes listed on the market, using the Memphis Green Features Checklist..

Last Updated: December 2014

Comprehensive Efficiency Services List All

The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program is not available in Memphis.

Last Updated: December 2014

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 5 out of 18 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (MLGW) is the municipal utility which provides electricity, natural gas, and drinking water to the City of Memphis. The Tennessee Regulatory Authority sets the rates and services standards of the investor-owned natural gas, electric, and water utilities. The municipal energy utilities implement Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)-funded energy efficiency programs which are outlined in the TVA Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). To learn more about the state-requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Tennessee page of the State Database.

The Department of Public Works is the municipal utility which provides wastewater treatment and stormwater management services for Memphis.

Last Updated: December 2014

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

According to EIA, in 2012, MLGW spent $39,752,000 on electric efficiency programs, representing 0.58% of its annual revenue. Due to these programs, MLGW net incremental electricity savings was 36,561MWh, representing 0.26% of its retail sales, according to the TVA Highlights Report for 2013. In 2013, MLGW either did not spend or did not report spending on natural gas efficiency programs. MLGW offers natural gas and electric efficiency tools and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers.

Memphis’s Mayor’s Energy Challenge established a $10 million low-interest loan fund for commercial energy efficiency projects, started the My Account tool through MLGW, prompted many assessment programs, calculators, and other tools to bring energy efficiency to Memphis.

Last Updated: December 2014

Energy Efficiency Targets & Funding Agreements List All

There is no established local annual electric savings target for the municipal utility, Memphis Light, Gas, and Water.

Last Updated: December 2014

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, MLGW makes use of the My Account data sharing platform which includes a “My Home Compare” scale so households can compare usage to similar households. At this time, MLGW does not provide Memphis’s building owners and managers with automatic benchmarking data for use in Portfolio Manager. MLGW does not publically release community aggregate energy usage data.

Last Updated: December 2014

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

MLGW has not established any water efficiency programs, policies, or goals.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

In 2013, the City of Memphis’s two wastewater treatment plants enrolled in the TVA-EnerNOC Demand Response Program. Under this program, the city receives recurring payments from TVA in return for agreeing to reduce electricity consumption in response to abnormally high electricity demand. Combined the plants reduce consumption by 9,000 kW and receive an annual payment of roughly $154,000 for participating. Both of the city’s wastewater treatment facilities supply biogas to the water utility for use on-site.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The Stormwater Management Program has established numerous requirements for newly developed areas for stormwater management such as new parking lots and bioswales. Revenue generated from the stormwater fee is also used for public projects that incorporate low impact development (LID) and green infrastructure.

Last Updated: December 2014

Score: 12.5 out of 28
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the City of Memphis is the Memphis Area Transit Authority. MATA also provides the public transportation for the city and the broader metropolitan area, including bus and trolley service. The Memphis Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Memphis, and many surrounding cities and towns. The Department of Public Works is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: December 2014

Location Efficiency List All

Memphis adopted a Unified Development Code in 2010 that incorporates form-based elements and overlays to encourage mixed-use development. The city allows one or more parking spaces per residential unit. Memphis adopted its Complete Streets Policy through executive order in 2013. 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

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

Car and Bicycle Sharing

There is a car sharing program currently available to the residents and visitors of Memphis, zipcar. A bikeshare program, through the provider Alta, is in the planning stages.

Transportation Demand Management Programs

Memphis and Shelby County adopted the vRide transportation demand management program to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicle trips or trips during rush hour.

Last updated: December 2014

Transit List All

The MATA transit system that serves Memphis received $65,357,307 in total funding in 2012. This funding level is $93.47 per resident in the service territory of the agency. In comparison, 2011 spending on roads and parking by the city was $25,797,387, or $39.41 per city resident. This results in a ratio of per capita regional transit funding to per capita city highway and parking funding of 2.37 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 Memphis’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 5,833, 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, Memphis 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 made an EV charging station available for public use. 

Memphis has not yet established efficient driving rules, such as an anti-idling ordinance, for private vehicles. Memphis does not participate in a Clean Cities Coalition. 

Last updated: December 2014

Freight List All

There are 36 intermodal freight facilities within the City of Memphis’s boundaries, 33 of which we classify as efficient because it is port- or rail-capable. Memphis’s share of regional freight traffic in 2012, normalized by population, is 21,231 ton-miles. As a result there are 1.554 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