State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Columbus, OH

45.00Scored out of 100Updated 5/2017
Local Government Score:
6.5 out of 10 points
Local Government Summary List All

The Columbus Green Community Plan: Green Memo III, released in February 2015, articulates Columbus’s greenhouse gas goals and strategies for internal government operations. 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. In 2016 the city formally adopted Green Memo III by resolution.

Last updated: February 2017

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

In 2016 Columbus adopted the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from government operations 30% by 2020, from 2005 levels. Green Memo III further describes ways the city can encourage and support energy efficiency.


To meet this goal, Columbus would need to reduce operations emissions by 1.4% per year.


Columbus is currently on track for its local government greenhouse gas goal. 


Columbus releases annual progress reports on the city’s sustainability efforts for the Get Green Columbus Initiative, including progress toward the overall government operations goal. Columbus published progress toward its greenhouse gas target in Green Memo III. The city also 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. 

Last updated: April 2017

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

Columbus does not have efficiency requirements for its fleet, however, the Division of Fleet Management approves each and every vehicle and off-road equipment specification before it can proceed through the purchasing approval path.  When it reaches the Fleet level for approval, then Fleet ensures that when available, an energy efficient vehicle/equipment shall be specified. The goal is to purchase energy efficient vehicles when possible. Additionally, 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 city currently counts 2,500 vehicle units with web based GPS technology which allows for the implementation of fuel saving programs and route optimization.

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, drafted LED streetlight design standards, and is requiring that all newly installed street lights are LED. Pedestrian signals are 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 that is new contruction or undergoes major renovations must be LEED Silver certified. We could not confirm if the city's green procurement policy calls for energy-efficient equipment.

Last updated: April 2017

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

The city benchmarks 98% 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.

Public Employees

We could not confirm if Columbus has a telecommuting policy.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 8 out of 12 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: April 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, and it is currently on track to achieve its 2020 target.

Last updated: April 2017

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: April 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: April 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 9 out of 28 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: 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 Columbus comply with the state mandated codes. The City of Columbus advocates at the state level for increased stringency in the commercial building energy codes and participates in the 2018 IECC voting process.


Residential buildings in Columbus comply with the state mandated codes. The City of Columbus advocates at the state level for increased stringency in the residential building energy codes and participates in the 2018 IECC voting process.

Last Updated: March 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Columbus does not have internal staff dedicated solely to energy code compliance nor does the city have an energy code compliance program. The city requires building code officials to complete energy code training. Columbus does not provide upfront support to developers or owners for energy code compliance.

Last Updated: March 2017

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

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. Private businesses and non-profits can apply for reimbursement grants to redevelop Brownfield sites or to build green properties in Columbus.

Last Updated: January 2017

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

 In June 2014, the City of Columbus, launched the Columbus Energy Challenge - a voluntary benchmarking program - with a goal to reduce energy use from buildings over 50,000 square feet by 20% by 2020 and benchmark 70% of those buildings (approximately 680 buildings). Each participating business is provided with quality information about energy benchmarking, training opportunities, tutorials on how to register buildings using ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager®, and a spreadsheet template that makes automatically uploading utility data easy.  As of October 2016, there are 113 buildings registered in the Challenge, equaling 18,856,598 square feet of space that are benchmarking through the program. 

There is not enforcement strategy in place, but a rewards and recognition strategy is in place for those entities that do participate and reduce energy usage 20%. They are called the GreenSpotLight Awards.

Last Updated: March 2017

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 13 out of 20 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, 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. 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: January 2017

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2015, according to AEP Ohio’s demand side management report, they achieved 442,128 MWh in net incremental savings, representing 1.06% of retail sales. To achieve these savings, AEP Ohio spent $65,147,500 on electric efficiency programs in 2015, which amounts to 2.36% of annual revenue. In 2015, Columbia Gas of Ohio reported savings of 8.40 MMtherms from natural gas efficiency programs, representing 0.46% of its retail sales. In 2015, Columbia Gas of Ohio also spent $27,686,728 on natural gas efficiency programs, which are normalized to $21.05 per residential customer. 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 of Ohio similarly offers natural gas 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. Additionally, AEP Ohio and Columbia Gas of Ohio participate in the City of Columbus' Energy Working Group, which aims to help the City meet its energy objectives described in Green Memo III. Through the Energy Working Group, Columbia Gas of Ohio and AEP Ohio helped develop an Energy Efficiency Roadmap for Columbus Businesses and Organizations, which provides information on incentives for which customers may be eligible.

Last Updated: January 2017

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs

AEP Ohio offers the Community Assistance Program to qualified low-income residential customers. The program includes health and safety measures, water efficiency measures and appliance upgrades. The program coordinates with the Weatherization Assistance Program and partners with community action agencies to reach customers. The program targets high energy users to participate in the program. In 2015, according to AEP Ohio, it achieved 7,440 MWh in energy savings from its low-income programs, while spending $6,651,548 on its low-income efficiency portfolio. These programs served 5,884 low-income customers, with each household receiving an average of $1,130 and saving an average of 1,265 kWh.

Columbia Gas of Ohio offers its income-qualified program, WarmChoice, to households with high natural gas usage. Through this program, eligible customers receive free weatherstripping, attic and sidewall insulation, repair or replacement of gas furnaces and water heaters, and health and safety measures. The program streamlines enrollment through the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP Plus) program. Columbia Gas of Ohio partners with the federal Weather Assistance Program (WAP) in order to streamline measures to customers. In 2015, according to Columbia Gas of Ohio, it achieved 0.66 MMtherms in energy savings from its low-income program, while spending $10,684,168. According to its demand-side management report, this program served 2,085 low-income customers in 2015, with each household receiving an average of $5,124 and saving an average of 317 therms.

Multifamily Programs

At this time, AEP Ohio and Columbia Gas of Ohio do not offer energy efficiency programs targeted at multifamily properties.

Last Updated: June 2017

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, American Electric Power (AEP) Ohio makes use of the Green Button data sharing platform. Although AEP Ohio does not currently provide building managers or owners with automatic whole-building benchmarking data for input into Portfolio Manager, as of October 2016, they are in negotiations with a contractor to implement an automated benchmarking service program for their customers. AEP Ohio and Columbia Gas of Ohio both provide aggregated utility data to the city for planning and evaluation purposes on a per-request basis. 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: January 2017

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

The City of Columbus and Columbia Gas of Ohio have partnered on water efficient spray nozzles for restaurants. In addition, Columbus’s GreenSpot program encourages residents and businesses to adopt conservation measures, which includes water efficiency measures. The GreenSpot Backyards Program provides $50 rebates towards rain barrels, native plants, and $100 towards trees. As of January 2017, GreenSpot had over 15,550 members. The City of Columbus has set a target for water efficiency to reduce gallons of treated water produced to 42,284 gallons per capita, which is a 3% reduction, by 2020.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

The City of Columbus has set a 20% energy reduction goal by 2020, compared to 2013. The Division of Water and Division of Wastewater of the Department of Public Utilities have reduced energy usage at treatment plants by 5% for electricity and 50% for natural gas. This results in an 18.8% overall energy reduction (kBtu). The only energy generation from the City’s wastewater treatment plant comes from a partnership with a privately owned digester facility, Quasar.  The City pays Quasar to take sludge which Quasar uses to generate electricity.  The City currently has an RFP out to provide design work for future CPH plants at both wastewater treatment plants.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The City has recently received approval for its Columbus Blueprint: Clean Streams, Strong Neighborhoods plan, which will eliminate sanitary sewer overflows, and the plan includes significant green infrastructure investment. In 2017, the City will move forward with the Blueprint in earnest, building approximately 4.4 acres of new green infrastructure designed to remove approximately 20% of total suspended solids (TSS) from the run-off. The Blueprint is scheduled to continue for at least 20 years, adding over 70 acres of green infrastructure in the right-of-way, on vacant lots, and in parks. In addition, other City departments have also committed to green infrastructure. The Public Service Department is incorporating green infrastructure into roadway projects, and green infrastructure is routinely built at new city buildings, such as fire stations and health centers.

Last Updated: January 2017

Score: 8.5 out of 30 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: January 2017

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. 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: January 2017

Mode Shift List All

Modal Share Targets

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

Car and Bicycle Sharing

The City of Columbus utilizes Car2go for its car-sharing program and currently has over 25,000 registered users. Columbus is also served by a bike-sharing program, CoGo with over 46 operational stations.

Complete Streets

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.

Last updated: January 2017

Transit List All

The COTA transit system that serves Columbus received $138,442,019 in average annual funding from 2011-2015. This funding level is $68.48 per resident in the service territory of the agency, putting the city in the fifth highest category ($50-99) 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 Columbus’ Transit Connectivity Index value is 8, putting it in the fourth highest category (5-14) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: January 2017

Efficient VehiclesList 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 EV charging infrastructure. The city has 38 charging stations available for public use. 

Columbus is part of the Clean Fuels Ohio Coalition

Last updated: January 2017

Freight List All

Sustainable freight plan

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

Smart freight

Columbus is exploring and demonstrating a smart application to help with logistics efficiency and safety as part of its’ Smart Columbus program.

Last updated: January 2017

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

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

Last updated: January 2017

Low-Income in Transit-Oriented Development Areas List All

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

Last updated: January 2017