State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Cincinnati, OH

32.50Scored out of 100Updated 5/2017
Local Government Score:
4 out of 10 points
Local Government Summary List All

The Green Cincinnati Plan of 2013 articulates the city’s emissions goal for internal government operations. The Office of Environment & Sustainability oversees implementation of the government operations goal and facilitates interdepartmental coordination. Cincinnati has also completed efficiency improvements through performance contracting and retrocommissioning in over half of its’ municipal buildings.

Last updated: February 2017

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, culminating in an 80% reduction by 2050. The goal is community-wide and includes city government buildings. The plan was formally adopted by the Cincinnati City Council in June 2013.


In order to meet its local government greenhouse gas emissions goal, Cincinatti would need to reduce emissions by 2% per year.


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


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 the various sustainability indicators through its open data portal

Last updated: January 2017

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 reviewing its entire fleet to determine if a vehicle is being used for the appropriate function and if it should continue to be used for that function, replaced, or is no longer needed. At this time, the city of Cincinnati does not have a specific procurement policy for energy efficient vehicles, nor does it employ web-based fleet management tools.

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. Streetlights are scheduled, so they only operate when needed. Additionally, through performance contracts, Cincinnati has upgraded all city owned and operated street lights (5,000) to LED technology.

New Buildings and Equipment

The Green Guidelines for the School Facility Master Plan require schools meet LEED standards, but we could not find energy efficiency requirements for other municipal buildings. Cincinnati’s procurement policy does not contain energy efficiency requirements. 

Last updated: May 2017

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

The City of Cincinnati has entered half of its government owned buildings in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The buildings represent 50-60 percent of the city’s total square footage. Additionally, the City of Cincinnati has completed over $22 million in efficiency improvements through performance contracting and retro commissioning. The improvements have impacted over 50 percent of public buildings.

Public Employees

We could not confirm if Cincinnati has policies to reduce the commutes of city workers, such as flex schedules and teleworking policies.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 6.5 out of 12 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

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: 8.5 out of 28 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 Buildings Department manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Cincinnati.

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

Last Updated: January 2017

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 for commercial buildings, effective January 1, 2017. Ohio's energy code for residential buildings is based on the 2009 IECC. 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, advocates for improvements and participates in the 2018 IECC voting process.


Residential buildings in Cincinnati comply with the state mandated codes. The city actively monitors state level discussions concerning building codes, advocates for improvements and participates in the 2018 IECC voting process.

Last Updated: March 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Cincinnati does not have internal staff dedicated solely to energy code compliance. The city does not require building code officials to complete energy code training. The city 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: January 2017

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

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: January 2017

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 includes fields for energy-efficient measures.

Last Updated: January 2017

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 6 out of 20 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, in 2014, S.B. 310 placed a two-year freeze on energy efficiency requirements and allowed utilities that had achieved 4.2% cumulative savings to reduce or eliminate offerings. Efforts to extend this freeze under HB 554 were vetoed by the governor in December 2016, and savings targets resumed in 2017. 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: January 2017

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2015, according to Duke Energy Ohio’s demand side management report, they achieved 181,859 MWh in gross incremental savings, representing 0.71% of retail sales. To achieve these savings, Duke Energy Ohio spent $31,349,457 on electric efficiency programs in 2015, which amounts to 3.24% of annual revenue. Duke Energy Ohio did not implement any natural gas efficiency programs in 2015. 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 time, the City of Cincinnati does not partner with Duke Energy Ohio to promote participation in their energy efficiency programs.

Last Updated: January 2017

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs

Duke Energy Ohio offers the Low Income Services pilot program and the Neighborhood Energy Saver program to qualified low-income customers. Customers may receive energy efficiency products and services such as compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, water heater wraps, HVAC cleaning, HVAC filters, and energy efficiency education. The program is offered through a partnership with People Working Cooperatively (PWC) and specifically targets elderly customers.

In 2015, according to Duke Energy Ohio, it achieved 1,974 MWh in energy savings from its low-income programs, while spending $708,000 on its low-income efficiency portfolio. These programs served 2,000 low-income customers, with each household receiving an average of $354 and saving an average of 987 kWh. These programs are electric only, with no gas savings or spending reported. 

Multifamily Programs

At this time, Duke Energy Ohio does not offer energy efficiency programs targeted at multifamily properties.

Last Updated: June 2017

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

Although smart meters are available within Duke Energy Ohio’s service area, Duke Energy does not participate in the Green Button program. 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 usage data to the City for community-planning and evaluation purposes. At this time, the City of Cincinnati does not advocate to the state for improvements in data provision by its utilities.

Last Updated: January 2017

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. The energy utilities do not provide water efficiency as part of their energy efficiency program offerings.

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: January 2017

Score: 7.5 out of 30 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: January 2017

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. There are no incentives available through the city to promote location efficiency.

Last updated: January 2017

Mode Shift List All

Modal Share Targets

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

Car and Bicycle Sharing

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

Complete Streets

Cincinnati has not yet written or codified a Complete Streets Policy.

Last updated: January 2017

Transit List All

The SORTA transit system that serves Cincinnati received $108,188,358 in average annual funding from 2011-2015. This funding level is $50.14 per resident in the service territory of the agency, putting the city in the fifth highest category ($50-99) available in transit funding. 

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 Cincinnati’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

Efficient VehiclesList 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 EV charging infrastructure. This city has 27 EV charging stations available for public use. Municipal staff from Cincinnati engage with the Clean Fuels Ohio Coalition

Last updated: January 2017

Freight List All

Sustainable freight plan

Cincinnati does not have a sustainable freight transportation plan in place nor does it have any policies that address freight efficiency.

Smart freight

Cincinnati does not employ an internet-based application or service to coordinate freight transport.

Last updated: January 2017

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

Cincinnati does not have a sustainable transportation in place to reduce VMTs.

Last updated: January 2017

Low-Income in Transit-Oriented Development Areas List All

Cincinnati does not have any requirements or incentives in place to develop or preserve affordable housing in transit-served areas.

Last updated: January 2017