State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Denver, CO

70.50Scored out of 100Updated 5/2017
Local Government Score:
9 out of 10 points
Local Government Summary List All

Denver’s energy and emissions reduction goals are outlines in the 2020 Sustainability Goals and Climate Action Plan - both authorized in 2013 by Executive Order 123. In particular, Denver is focusing on opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable energy in its city facilities and at Denver’s airport, improvements in the city fleet through both efficiency, fuel switching,  and reduced vehicle miles travelled, and the development of carbon neutral buildings.

Last updated: April 2017

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

Denver's 2020 goals include a target to reduce energy consumed in city-operated buildings, the Denver International Airport (DIA), and city vehicles by 20% compared to a 2012 baseline. Denver has also committed to the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge (BBC), which requires it to reduce the source energy use intensity (EUI) of its buildings 20% by 2020, from 2011. All of the 2020 Sustainability Goals are authorized in Executive Order 123. The Sustainability Implementation Council (SIC) has charged General Services with coordinating efforts among city agencies to achieve the 2020 Sustainability energy goal and the BBC goal. The Green Fleet Committee, an interagency committee also established by EO 123, meets quarterly and supplements General Services efforts by ensuring progress toward achieving the sustainability goals specifically for the fleet. In addition, Denver has a goal to reduce municipal GHG emissions 6% by 2020, from a 2011 baseline.


To meet this goal, Denver would need to reduce energy use by 3.69% per year.


The city is not on track for its Sustainable 2020 local government energy use goal. 


Denver’s Strategic Initiatives office, within the Department of General Services, publishes an annual report detailing the city’s utility budget, reports its progress on its Better Building Challenge goal to the DOE, and its progress on the 2020 goals to the Office of Sustainability, which publishes progress on its website. Additionally, each agency is required to do an annual Peak Performance presentation to the Mayor and his top advisors, which are published online

Last updated: April 2017

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

Per Executive Order 3 regarding the Motor Vehicle Program for the City and County of Denver, the Acquisition of all Fleet Vehicles is to be done in accordance with Executive Order 123  (EO 123).  EO 123 requires the purchase of hybrids and the most fuel-efficient vehicles available for the light duty fleet wherever cost and reliability are similar. Additionally, Mayor Michael B. Hancock committed the city during the Sustainable Denver Summit on November 14th, 2016 to purchase at least 200 plug-in electric vehicles within the public works and safety departments by the end of 2020.  This city monitors the use of its public fleet through the FASTER asset management data base software, which incorporates GPS technology to increase public fleet efficiency. Denver also uses Zonar as a GPS tracking technology within the Public Works, Parks and Facilities fleet. The technology is deployed on about 500 vehicles so far.

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

Denver does not have a dedicated policy that approximates the Model Lighting Ordinance, but the Outdoor Lighting section in Div 10.7 of the Denver Zoning Code touches on some similar themes, including requiring full cutoff fixtures to reduce light spill into the night sky, as well as other provisions that are intended to reduce glare onto the public right-of-way and adjacent properties.  Streetlights are owned by the electric utility, Xcel Energy. Denver is continuing to work with Xcel to establish terms for a comprehensive LED replacement program for municipal street lights, piloting management methods and technology types. Denver has four  LED pilots testing different technologies including 3000 Kelvin temperature lights with dimming technology and low BUG ratings,   is replacing each of its intersection street lights to LED whenever intersection work is done, is developing a city specification for LED streetlighting, and is conducting an audit of all street lights in the City and County of Denver.

New Buildings and Equipment

Chapter 2 of Executive Order 123 requires all new city projects and major remodels to achieve LEED BD+C Gold certification, with a goal of achieving LEED Platinum, and to meet ENERGY STAR guidelines. Any entity using city bonding capacity must design and build to achieve LEED Gold certification. The executive order also details Denver’s environmentally preferable procurement policy that requires assessing total cost of ownership. Agencies are directed to procure energy-efficient products and services.

Last updated: April 2017

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

The City of Denver has benchmarked 100% of public buildings in ENERGY STAR Portfolio manager, which amounts to approximately 10.5M square feet. Additionally, the city tracks the energy use of all of its buildings through EnergyCap. Near the end of 2014, the City had completed a Facility Condition and Assessment Program to review the overall condition of every City facility and determine where appropriate improvements should take place.  These recommendations were prioritized by cost and urgency to determine applicable sources of funding.  Throughout 2015 and currently, the City has been moving forward with completing these recommendations. Additionally, the City recently completed the implementation phase of its first Energy Performance Contract (EPC).  This contract totaled approximately $2M, covering 14 buildings of various functions, and has a projected payback of approximately 15 years.

Public Employees

The city allows both telecommuting and flexible schedules (Section 9-80 of the Career Services Rules) although these options must be approved by the employee’s agency.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 8 out of 12 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The city’s community initiatives related to energy efficiency are lead by different agencies. The Denver Department of Environment Health manages Energize Denver and the Denver Energy Challenge. The Office of Strategic Partnerships administers a $2 million fund for energy efficiency improvements in low-income housing and non-profit organizations. The Department of Finance manages PACE financing, and Community Planning and Development manages all code advancement and compliance.

The Office of Sustainability hosts an annual Sustainable Denver Summit where it asks the community to take ownership of the 2020 Sustainability Goals by making Commitments to Action or creating and joining an Action Team. Thus far, the community and city have made 175 commitments (51 in energy) and created 54 action teams (16 in energy). Sixty-seven percent of the 2015 commitments are completed or are on track.

Last updated: April 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

Denver has formally adopted its 2020 Sustainability Goals that aim to hold total energy consumed in Denver for buildings, mobility and industrial processes below the total consumed in 2012, while decreasing fossil fuel consumption by 50%. In addition, Denver adopted the goal of reducing energy consumption of commercial and multifamily buildings 10% by 2020 and 20% in the decade following when the Energize Denver initiative was announced.

Denver adopted a 2020 Sustainability Goal to reduce Denver’s greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels. Denver’s long-term climate goal is articulated in its 2015 Climate Action Plan, which is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 from a 2005 baseline.

The Denver Office of Sustainability is required to report on progress toward the 2020 Sustainability goals on its website. The city is not on track to achieve its community-wide energy goal; however, the city is projected to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions within 25% of its near-term 2020 goal.

Last updated: April 2017

Efficient Distributed Energy Systems - District Energy and Combined Heat and PowerList All

The city of Denver has targeted several high priority areas for district energy systems and has provided technical assistance on numerous projects.

Last updated: April 2017

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

As part of its Game Plan, Denver adopted a goal to have 18% urban tree canopy coverage in the city by 2025. Denver’s energy loan program, implemented through the Denver Energy Challenge, provides low-interest financing for cool roofs. The city has also passed a private tree protection ordinance. We did not find information on any policies that require or incentivize conservation of private land.

Last updated: April 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 19.5 out of 28 points
Buildings Summary List All

Denver has some building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including an energy benchmarking program for both commercial and residential buildings. The Denver Development Services manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Denver.

Last Updated: January 2017

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

The State of Colorado is a home rule state meaning local jurisdictions may set their own building codes, if they choose to, for both residential and commercial construction. Localities which choose to set a building code must comply with the 2003 IECC at a minimum. The 2016 Denver Building Code includes the 2015 IECC with city-specific amendments. Denver participated in the ICC voting process for the 2018 IECC.

To learn more about the building energy codes for the State of Colorado, please visit the State Policy Database.


Denver has adopted the 2015 IECC with local amendments.


Denver has adopted the 2015 IECC with local amendments.

Last Updated: March 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Denver does not have internal staff dedicated solely to energy code compliance. The city requires building code officials to complete energy code training and hosts state-sponsored training. Building commissioning is required in the city's energy code. Denver provides upfront support to developers or owners through public forums and online guidance documents. 

Last Updated: March 2017

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Green Building Requirements

Private commercial and residential buildings are not subject to green building requirements.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Denver 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

The Denver Energy Challenge and Certifiably Green Denver offer a low-cost, low-interest loan to homeowners and small business owners for making energy efficiency upgrades to their homes or businesses.  PACE financing is available for commercial building energy efficiency investments. The Denver Office of Strategic Partnerships (DOSP) has two programs offering energy efficiency services and funding to low-income residential property owners and nonprofits in the City. 

Last Updated: March 2017

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Commercial and Residential 

In December 2016, Denver city council passed the Energize Denver program which requires commercial and multi-family buildings over 50,000 square feet to track and report their ENERGY STAR score, beginning in 2017. In 2018, buildings over 25,000 square feet will be required to report their score. 

Denver also has a voluntary program to encourage building benchmarking for commercial and multi-family buildings. Watts To Water is a program dedicated to energy and water use reduction from the commercial sector in the Denver metro area. Participating buildings must share data in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

In addition to the city's programs, the multiple listing service, CREN, has many fields to indicate energy efficiency features of the homes listed on the market.

Training and Guidance Provided by the City or State 

Many ‘How to Benchmark’ training sessions have been held as part of the voluntary benchmarking program.  See past newsletters for details on all the trainings. 

Upon passage of Energize Denver, the City will implement the benchmarking and transparency requirement with the assistance of a third-party Help Center designed to provide building owners with live support and trainings for those who seek it. The help center will answer the phone, emails, provide answers to FAQs, online and in person training sessions on how to benchmark, helping owners submit their report in Portfolio Manager and more. 

Enforcement Strategy 

There will be a financial penalty of $2,000 to be enforced if an owner has failed to submit their report after multiple issued warnings and offers of assistance with benchmarking.

Energy Use Disclosure

Once all eligible buildings have submitted their reports in Portfolio Manager, the City will post each building’s ENERGY STAR score on a publicly available website.

Reports and Database

The City will implement a tool to track all required data fields for all buildings as well as an annual analysis of building energy usage data once the benchmarking requirement is in effect and the city has data from its first reporting period.

Last Updated: March 2017

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 16 out of 20 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

Xcel (Public Service Co. of Colorado), an investor-owned utility (IOU), is the primary gas and electric utility serving the City of Denver. The City of Denver is an active promoter of Xcel’s energy efficiency programs. The State of Colorado requires spending and savings targets for its utilities through an EERS as well as efficiency requirements within demand-side management plans to be filed annually. To learn more about the state-requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Colorado page of the State Database. On the state level, Denver strongly advocates for additional spending requirements for energy efficiency projects for all of its utilities.

Denver Water is an independent entity providing drinking water in Denver. The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District treats Denver’s wastewater. Denver Wastewater Management is the municipal utility charged with managing Denver’s stormwater. The Denver Energy Challenge, located in the Office of Strategic Partnerships, administers the energy efficiency programs in partnership with the utilities.

Last Updated: January 2017

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2015, according to Xcel Energy, they achieved 405,558 MWh in net incremental savings, representing 1.41% of retail sales. To achieve these savings, ComEd spent $74,705,455 on electric efficiency programs in 2015, which amounts to 2.73% of annual revenue. In 2015, Xcel Energy reported savings of 5.98 MMtherms from natural gas efficiency programs, representing 0.49% of its retail sales. To achieve these savings, Xcel Energy spent an additional $12,880,516 on natural gas efficiency programs, which are normalized to $10.27 per residential customer. Spending on electricity and natural gas represented in this section covers the entire Colorado service territory, not just Denver. Xcel offers natural gas and electric efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers.

The City of Denver partners with Xcel through the Denver Energy Challenge to cross promote programs through mailings and customer service.

Last Updated: January 2017

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs

Xcel Energy offers a portfolio of dual fuel programs to serve low-income residential customers, including the Single-Family Weatherization Program, the Low-Income Multifamily Weatherization Program, Low-Income Nonprofit Program, and Low-Income Energy Savings Kit Program. These programs provide no-cost weatherization measures through third-party product implementers. Measures include weatherstripping, insulation, replacement of inefficient furnaces and refrigerators, water efficiency measures, and installation of efficient lighting. Xcel Energy partners with the Colorado Energy Office and Energy Outreach Colorado, which actively work on low-income customer programs. Additionally, Xcel offers energy-savings kits to low-income customers. Xcel Energy’s low-income programs target high energy users and elderly customers, and streamline eligibility through the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Weatherization Assistance Program income qualifications.

In 2015, according to Xcel Energy, it achieved 6,503 MWh and 0.60 MMtherms in energy savings from its low-income programs, while spending $3,087,697 on electric and $3,174,843 on its natural gas low-income efficiency portfolio. Across these programs, Xcel served 7,500 electric and 9,248 natural gas low-income customers, with each electric household receiving an average of $412 and saving 867 kWh, and natural gas households receiving an average of $343 and saving 65 therms. Households served include those receiving only energy-saving kits, as well as households participating in weatherization programs.

Multifamily Programs

Xcel offers the Multifamily Weatherization Program. This comprehensive program provides funding for a wide variety of natural gas and electric equipment retrofits, process improvements, facility audits and studies for low-income multifamily buildings. The company's rebates supplement federal weatherization grants to produce incremental, cost-effective natural gas and electric savings. Each submitted project is evaluated using a custom analysis by the company's energy efficiency engineers to determine cost-effectiveness. In some cases, rebates for additional energy-saving equipment are also made available.

Last Updated: June 2017

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, Xcel Energy makes use of the Green Button data sharing platform. According to the City of Denver, Xcel does provide the free automatic upload of monthly energy bill data to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager accounts, including aggregated whole building data for buildings with four or more tenants. Community-wide annual data is available in aggregate for the residential and commercial/industrial sectors.

Denver regularly intervenes in Colorado Public Utility Commission proceedings regarding Xcel's energy efficiency portfolio and plans to advocate for policies that more easily allow utility customers to share their own data with a third party for analysis. The City of Denver also continues to advocate for better aggregation standards, whole building data access, community energy reports, better customer disclosure forms (including making forms available in Spanish), and custom reports that third parties can request from the utility. Additionally, as part of the City Energy Project, Denver is working to accelerate access to energy data to improve building efficiency.

Last Updated: January 2017

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

Denver Water partnered with Xcel Energy on Xcel’s Commercial Refrigeration Efficiency pilot program by providing efficient water pre-rinse spray valves when applicable as well as water efficiency information. Denver Water also partnered with the Mile High Youth Corps, who installed Denver Water’s efficient fixtures as well as conducted energy retrofits for lighting and other measures. Furthermore, Denver Water offers free water audits to all customers as well as toilet and irrigation rebates and incentives. As part of the city’s 2020 goals, Denver plans to reduce its use of potable water for irrigation of parks and golf courses by 22%, as well as reduce its use of potable water in buildings by 20%, as compared to a 2012 baseline. In addition to City of Denver’s 2020 sustainability goals, Denver Water’s Conservation Plan aims to accelerate the pace of water conservation in its service area and reduce overall water use from pre-2002 drought usage by 22% by 2016.

In addition, Denver Water has a number of conservation rules that apply to its service area.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

Denver Water has not yet established a specific goal for energy efficiency in water services. Denver Water has implemented several energy efficiency initiatives at its pumping stations and reports its greenhouse gas emissions to The Climate Registry. As part of Denver Water’s comprehensive Operations Complex Redevelopment plan, overall energy use is expected to decrease by 5% annually. Additionally, Denver Water participates in Xcel Energy’s Process Efficiency program to identify opportunities for energy conservation specific to pumping operations.

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District also participates in Xcel Energy’s Process Efficiency program to identify opportunities for energy conservation specific to wastewater operations.

The Metro Wastewater District operates a 5 MW combined heat and power (CHP) system that captures methane gas and generates electricity used on-site.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

There is no funding designated specifically for green stormwater infrastructure on public property, as green infrastructure would be part of the base design per city efforts to increase green infrastructure in all construction. The City of Denver absolutely plans to increase its investment in green infrastructure to manage stormwater. The City is currently finalizing its implementation strategy for the water quality program which will be released in early 2017. This plan outlines not only the areas of the city most in need of water quality treatment, but it also details numerous green infrastructure projects the city plans to implement and projects that are already in design and/or construction phases. In addition, the Ultra Urban Green Infrastructure Guidelines aim to bolster green infrastructure for both public and private projects in Denver. Most importantly, the City Council recently approved an important wastewater rate increase, a portion of which will go directly to the city’s water quality and green infrastructure efforts beginning in 2017.

Last Updated: January 2017

Score: 18 out of 30 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the City of Denver is the Denver Regional Transportation District. RTD-Denver also provides the public transportation for the city and the broader metropolitan area, including bus, and light rail service. The Denver Regional Council of Governments is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Denver, and many surrounding cities and counties. The Denver Department of Public Works is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: January 2017

Location Efficiency List All

Denver has a form-based/context-sensitive zoning code to encourage mixed uses in urban centers and around transit-oriented development. Form-based elements regulate all building types. Denver requires 1.25 parking spaces or less per unit in suburban neighborhoods, with a complete removal of minimum requirements in some areas. Downtown developments must provide .75 spaces per unit, with a complete removal of minimum requirements in some areas. There are no incentives available through the city to promote location efficiency.

Last updated: January 2017

Mode Shift List All

Modal Share Targets

Denver has not yet developed targets to promote a modal shift in transportation. Car and Bicycle Sharing

There are three car sharing programs currently available to the residents and visitors of Denver, Enterprise CarShareeGo CarShare, Car2go and zipcar. The city is served by a bikesharing program, Denver BCycle.

Complete Streets

Denver adopted its Complete Streets Policy in 2011. The adoption of the procedure encourages the inclusion of complete streets principles in all road construction and maintenance projects.

Last updated: January 2017

Transit List All

The RTD-Denver transit system that serves Denver has received $1,284,291,429 in average annual funding from 2011-2015. This funding level equates to $456.34 per resident in the service territory of the agency which puts Denver in the highest category (>$400) 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 Denver’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 18, putting it in the third highest category (16-29) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: January 2017

Efficient VehiclesList All

At this time, Denver 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 owns 63 charging stations available for public use. 

Last updated: January 2017

Freight List All

Sustainable freight plan

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

Smart freight

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

Last updated: January 2017

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

Denver has a Sustainability Community Mobility Goal in place to provide mobility options that reduce commuting travel in Denver done in single-occupant vehicles to no more than 60% of all trips. Denver also has separate plans in place to increase the length of pedestrian walkways and trails and to increase transit access.

Last updated: January 2017

Low-Income in Transit-Oriented Development Areas List All

Denver’s Office of Economic Development helped to seed the Denver Regional Transit Oriented Development Fund (run through Enterprise Community Partners) that helps prospective developers acquire land near transit for future affordable housing.

Last updated: January 2017