State and Local Policy Database

Columbus

City Scorecard Rank

29

Columbus, OH

41.00Scored out of 100Updated 10/2020
Local Government Score:
3.5 out of 10 points
Local Government Climate and Energy Goals List All

The City of Columbus’s Sustainable Columbus initiative is the primary driver behind the city’s climate and energy actions in municipal operations.

Climate Mitigation Goal

Columbus adopted a goal to reduce municipal greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020. ACEEE was unable to project if the city will achieve its near-term GHG emissions reduction goal for municipal operations because insufficient GHG emissions data were available for our analysis.

Energy Reduction Goal

Columbus as a goal to reduce local government energy use 20% by 2020.

Renewable Energy Goal

Green Memo III includes a goal to purchase renewable energy credits to account for 100% of municipal energy use by 2020.

Last updated: March 2020

Procurement and Construction List All

Fleet Policies and Composition

Columbus has an Environmentally Preferable Purchasing policy that Fleet Management references for all purchases. Fleet Management ensures that energy efficient vehicles and equipment is purchased when available. 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 plan tracks the City’s reduction in petroleum use. Since 2010, there has been a 27% decrease in use of petroleum. From 2015-2017, Columbus reduced its fleet emissions by 14% by increasing budget for efficient vehicles purchases for both light and heavy-duty vehicles.  Columbus’ fleet is composed of 5% efficient vehicles, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles. 

Public Lighting

Columbus has not adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance, but the city has published new streetlight design guidelines. Columbus is in the process of converting all existing streetlights to LED.

Onsite renewable systems 

We were unable to find information regarding onsite renewable energy systems in Columbus.

Inclusive procurement

We could not verify if the city has inclusive procurement and contracting processes.

Last updated: March 2020

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking 

Columbus benchmarks 98% of municipal buildings through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

Comprehensive Retrofit Strategy 

The City does not have a retrofit policy in place, but is exploring options to reduce energy consumption systematically. For 2020, projects are being developed to comprehensively retro-commission 6 city-owned buildings, totaling over 729,000 square feet.

Public Workforce Commuting

We did not find information on a policy aimed at reducing commutes of city employees, such as flexible schedules or telework.

Last updated: July 2020

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 8.5 out of 15 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The City of Columbus formally adopted The Columbus Green Community Plan and most recently updated the plan with the Green Memo III.

Last updated: March 2020

Community-Wide Climate Mitigation and Energy GoalsList All

Climate Mitigation Goal

The Green Memo III includes a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 2013 levels by 2020. Based on ACEEE’s analysis of past years emissions data, ACEEE projects that the city will achieve 75% of the per-capita emissions reductions required to achieve its near-term community-wide GHG emissions reduction goal.

Greenhouse gas emissions data is included in the Green Memo III. The city also reports annual inventories to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Energy Reduction Goal

The Green Memo III establishes a goal to reduce energy use 20% below 2013 levels by 2020.

Renewable Energy Goal

The Green Memo III established a goal to use 10% renewable energy by 2020. 

Energy Data Reporting

The city’s reports community-wide energy data to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

This section applies only to community-wide energy data reporting. For information on data reporting due to building energy benchmarking and disclosure policies, click on the Buildings tab.

Last updated: September 2020

Equity-Driven Approaches to Clean Energy Planning, Implementation, and EvaluationList All

Equity-Driven Community Engagement

We were unable to determine whether relevant decision-makers have taken a unique and expanded approach in conducting engagement for multiple clean energy initiatives with marginalized groups compared to engagement with other city constituencies.

Equity-Driven Decision-Making

We were unable to determine if the city has created a formal role for marginalized community residents or local organizations representing those communities to participate in decision-making that affects the creation or implementation of a local energy, sustainability, or climate action plan.

Accountability to Equity

We were unable to determine whether the city has adopted specific goals, metrics, or protocols to track how multiple energy, sustainability, or climate action initiatives are affecting local marginalized groups. 

Last updated: August 2020

Clean Distributed Energy SystemsList All

We could not verify if the city has adopted a formal policy, rule, or agreement that supports the creation of clean distributed energy systems.

Last updated: March 2020

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

UHI Mitigation Goal

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%.

UHI Policies and Programs

The city also offers stormwater service fee credits for private properties that install green infrastructure.

Last updated: August 2020

Buildings Policies
Score: 7.5 out of 30 points
Buildings Summary List All

The City of Columbus enforces that state’s energy code. The city has established a comprehensive code compliance verification process. Columbus was the first city in Ohio to adopt a mandatory benchmarking ordinance for commercial and multifamily buildings. The city offers PACE financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Last updated: September 2020

Building Energy Code AdoptionList All

Overview

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. Ohio's energy code for residential buildings is based on the 2018 IECC. To learn more about Ohio’s building energy code requirements, please visit the State Policy Database.

Commercial

Commercial buildings in Columbus comply with the state mandated codes. The city’s zEPI score for their commercial energy code is 59.0. The City of Columbus testifies at state board meetings for increased stringency in the commercial building energy codes and participates in the 2018 IECC voting process.

Residential

Residential buildings in Columbus comply with the state mandated codes or the 2009 IECC. The city’s zEPI score for their residential energy code is 54. The City of Columbus testifies at state board meetings for increased stringency in the residential building energy codes and participates in the 2018 IECC voting process.

Solar- and EV-ready

The city has not adopted a formal policy mandating new construction be solar- and/or EV- ready.

Low-energy use requirements

Columbus requires new municipal buildings to achieve LEED standards.

Last updated: September 2020

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Columbus does not staff any full time employees solely dedicated to energy code enforcement. The city requires plan reviews, site inspections, and performance testing to verify code compliance. Columbus’s Building and Zoning Services staff meets with contractors, designers, and owners to review energy code compliance pathways on an as-requested basis.

Last updated: September 2020

Policies Targeting Existing BuildingsList All

Commercial and multifamily benchmarking

The Energy and Water Benchmarking & Transparency Ordinance requires commercial and multifamily buildings greater than 50,000 square feet to benchmark and disclose annual energy and water data. 

Incentives

Columbus offers commercial property owners access to property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. They city also offers tax-increment financing through the Clean Energy Financing program for energy efficiency upgrades and solar projects in small businesses and large commercial/industrial buildings. Additionally, the city offers projects that exceed standard construction and renovation requirements with more favorable incentives. Columbus launched the Community Energy Savers to improve residential and commercial energy efficiency. 

Last updated: September 2020

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Workforce DevelopmentList All

Columbus supported the development of the Community Energy Advocate workforce training program. We could not verify if the city has programs committed to developing a dedicated renewable energy workforce.

Last updated: September 2020

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 9.5 out of 15 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 of 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: March 2020

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs and SavingsList All

In 2018, AEP Ohio reported 452,124 MWh in net incremental savings, representing 1.01% of retail sales. In 2018, AEP Ohio spent $58,947,000 on energy efficiency programs, which represents 2.10% of its retail revenue.

In 2018, Columbia Gas of Ohio reported 10.03 MMtherms of net natural gas savings at the meter, which represents 0.57% of its retail sales across the utility’s service territory. In 2018, Columbia Gas spent $29,299,874 on energy efficiency, which equates to $22.06 per residential customer. These savings and spending figures cover the entire service jurisdiction of both utilities, not just the City of 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.

Columbus and its utilities continue to work together to promote energy efficiency. The City of Columbus promotes utility energy efficiency rebate programs through the GreenSpot program, the Sustainable Columbus website, and has assigned an Assistant Director, Special Projects to serve as point person for the Community Energy Savers program through which the City, AEP Ohio, and Columbia Gas are working jointly to promote utility energy efficiency programs in six neighborhoods in Columbus with the highest energy burden. This program is part of the American Cities Climate Challenge.

Last Updated: March 2020

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 and provide combined funding. The program targets high energy users to participate in the program.

In 2018, according to AEP Ohio, it achieved 64,560 MWh in energy savings, while spending $5,755,596 on its low-income programs and served 4,927 low-income customers.

Columbia Gas of Ohio offers its no-cost WarmChoice program to income-eligible homeowners and renters with high natural gas usage. Through this program, customers receive no cost energy efficiency measures including air sealing, and attic and sidewall insulation. Gas appliances are inspected for safety and repaired or if necessary, replaced with high-efficiency models. The program targets participants of the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP Plus) program and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Columbia Gas of Ohio partners with the federal Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP) in order to leverage funding and maximize services to customers. Columbia’s WarmChoice providers often coordinate funding from Columbia with other funding sources to better serve customers, including the Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP) and electric utility funding.

Columbia Gas of Ohio also offers a Home Energy Audit and Rebate program for customers above income guidelines for WarmChoice, which provides a reduced cost energy audit and rebates on recommended energy efficiency upgrades. Customers above income guidelines for WarmChoice (150% Federal Poverty Level) but at or below 80% Area Median Income, qualify for a $20 energy audit and max out of pocket of $300 for recommended energy efficiency upgrades, including attic and wall insulation and air/duct sealing. Customers above income for the assisted tier of Home Energy Audit can receive a $50 energy audit and rebates on recommended energy efficiency upgrades. 

In 2018, according to Columbia Gas of Ohio, it achieved 0.58 MMtherms in energy savings, while spending $11,861,206 on its low-income program and served 2,058 low-income customers.

The City of Columbus is currently working with AEP Ohio and Columbia Gas on the Community Energy Savings Program, which aims to implement energy audits with a focus on six low-income neighborhoods (Linden, Franklinton, Hilltop, Near East, Milo-Grogan, and University District/Italian Village). Each neighborhood sets a goal for the number of audits and rebates they want to achieve, and they get a financial award from the utilities if they achieve their goal to be used for an energy upgrade. Linden achieved their energy efficiency goal and received $35,000 to improve exterior lighting at the Hamilton STEM Academy playground and water heater upgrades at Como Elementary School, Duxberry Park Elementary School, Hamilton STEM Academy, and Windsor STEM Academy.

Multifamily Programs

AEP Ohio offers the Residential Multi-family program, which includes direct install measures such as LED bulbs, LED nightlights, low-flow showerheads, low-flow faucet aerators and smart power strips. This program targeted individually-metered complexes with five or more residential units. Installation appointments are arranged through the facilities’ property management. In 2018, the program achieved 3,294 MWh in savings, and served 5,663 customers installing 88,298 measures at the properties.

Columbia offers direct installation of energy efficiency measures (energy efficient showerheads and faucet aerators) in multifamily properties through its energy efficiency programs. Additionally, Columbia offers energy audits for multi-family buildings with 5-10 units through its Home Energy Audit and Rebate program. Columbia also launched a pilot for low-income multifamily customers through its WarmChoice program, offering no cost weatherization service to customers living in multifamily units. Additionally, Columbia has a multifamily component of its EfficiencyCrafted Homes program which works with builders to construct new residences that are built above energy code. In 2018, Columbia Gas’s multifamily program efforts achieved 0.10 MMtherms of savings while serving 3,177 households.

Last Updated: May 2020

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

AEP Ohio has partnered with Columbia Gas for automated benchmarking for gas and electric services in the portfolio manager. The City of Columbus is working with Columbia Gas to expand their data access solutions to include multifamily data. 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: March 2020

Renewable Energy Efforts of Energy UtilitiesList All

Renewable Energy Incentives

In 2018, AEP Ohio did not provide renewable energy incentives for the construction of new distributed solar or wind systems.

City-Led Efforts to Decarbonize the Electric Grid

In 2019, the City conducted a study to determine capacity for renewable energy generation in the city. Columbus is working with AEP Ohio to develop a microgrid demonstration project on one of its Recreation and Parks facilities to test the technology and create a critical community resource center to serve as a resilience hub in the event of a natural disaster. As part of the Smart Columbus, initiative the City of Columbus has supported AEP Ohio's proposal to install 900 MW of renewable energy in Ohio to decarbonize the grid. 

Last Updated: March 2020

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

City-wide water efficiency and goals

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 December 2018, GreenSpot had over 18,100 members. Recently, GreenSpot and Public Utilities’ Division of Power (DOP) has developed a process to offer DOP customers water conservation kits. This program is to start toward the end of 2019.

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. In 2018, the City saw 40,150 gallons per capita.

Water plant efficiency and self-generation

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).

In 2018, the city's two wastewater treatment plants saw 18,382 dry ton solids converted to energy (gas) and 3,749 tons converted to electricity through biodigesting. The Jackson Pike Wastewater Treatment Plant is proceeding with a combined heat and project. It is currently in the 30% design phase review. Construction will begin in 2021 with the system going online in 2022. The system will burn nearly all the biogas created at the plant and supply half the electrical power the plant consumes. The Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant CHP project will also proceed after further capacity studies are completed.

Last Updated: March 2020

Transportation
Score: 12 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

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

Sustainable Transportation Plan

Columbus does not have a sustainable transportation plan in place to reduce VMTs. However, in 2017 Columbus joined MORPC’s Sustainable2050 program that includes a goal to reduce the vehicle miles traveled per capita. In addition, the Columbus Climate Adaptation Plan was completed in December 2018. The plan outlines a set of 43 prioritized actions that should be taken by city government, regional organizations, and residents to make the city more climate resilient. The actions related to transportation include idling reductions and promoting alternative transportation mode options. In addition, COTA, the local transit authority, has adopted a Next Gen plan to increase mass transit ridership and reduce VMT.

VMT/GHG Target and Stringency

At this time, the City does not have a codified vehicle miles traveled (VMT) or greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target.

Progress Achieved Toward VMT/GHG Targets

We could not determine if the City tracks VMT or GHG numbers.

Last Updated: March 2019

Location Efficiency List All

Location Efficient Zoning Codes

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.

Residential Parking Policies

The City requires at least 0.75 to 2 parking spaces per residential unit depending on the number of dwelling units per building. There is no parking requirement in the downtown area.

Location Efficiency Incentives and Disclosure

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: March 2019

Mode Shift List All

Mode Shift Targets

At this time, the City does not have a codified mode share target for trips within the city.

Progress Achieved Toward Mode Shift Targets

No progress has been achieved, as there are no targets in place.

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.

Car Sharing

The City of Columbus utilizes Car2go for its car-sharing program and currently has over 25,000 registered users. The City has rules and regulations that allow for dedicated, on-street car share spaces.

Bike Sharing

Columbus is served by a bike-sharing program, CoGo with over 72 operational stations and 600 bikes. Electric bikes are expected to be integrated into the CoGo system in 2019.

Last Updated: May 2019

Transit List All

Transportation Funding

The COTA transit system that serves Columbus received $76,916,480.80 in average annual funding from 2013-2017. This funding level is $38.01 per resident in the service territory of the agency, putting the city in the fourth highest category ($20-49) available in the City Scorecard.

Access to Transit Services

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 5.1, putting it in the fourth highest category (5-6.99) available in the City Scorecard.

Last Updated: March 2019

Efficient VehiclesList All

Vehicle Purchase Incentives

Through the Smart Columbus program, the City is offering rebates to help central Ohio-based taxis, transportation network companies (TNCs), TNC drivers, car sharing, ride-sharing, and limo services make the switch to electric vehicles. Thirty incentives of $3,000 each ($90,000 total) are available to transportation service providers who purchase new, fully electric vehicles between November 20, 2018 and April 15, 2019. Earlier in 2018, the City awarded another $30,000 in rebates to Columbus Yellow Cab during a similar incentive program.

Vehicle Infrastructure Incentives

AEP Ohio is offering $10 million in incentives to install EV charging stations for local government, public charging, workplace charging, and MUD charging. In addition to the AEP Ohio incentive program, Smart Columbus is offering up to $25,000 per site for MUD EV charging stations. In 2018, the City of Columbus Division of Power offered its residential customers up to $500 in rebates to install Level 2 EV chargers at their home or apartment/condo. This incentive is still active/available.

EV Charging Locations

The City owns 94 charging stations available for public use.

Renewable Charging Incentives

At this time, the City of Columbus has no incentives or requirements available for the installation of private or public EV charging infrastructure powered by renewable energy (solar, wind, etc.).

Last Updated: March 2019

Freight System EfficiencyList All

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

Last Updated: March 2019

Clean, Efficient Transportation for Low-Income CommunitiesList All

Affordable New TOD Housing Policy

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

Connecting Existing Affordable Housing Stock to Efficient Transportation Options

Columbus does not currently provide rebates or incentives to low-income residents for efficient transportation options.

Low-Income Access to High Quality Transit

In the City of Columbus, almost 58% of low-income households have access to high-quality transit.

Last Updated: April 2019