State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Denver, CO

64.50Scored out of 100Updated 8/2019
Local Government Score:
6.5 out of 9 points
Local Government Climate and Energy Goals List All

Executive Order No. 123 established Denver’s Office of Sustainability. The Office is responsible for establishing sustainability goals and thus released the 2020 sustainability goals for both the community and local government.

Climate Mitigation Goal

Denver’s city government established a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to less than 354,000 MTCO2e by 2020. Progress towards municipal climate goals can be found on the city’s 2017 Progress Report. To meet this goal, Denver must reduce its per capita emissions by 1.32% annually. The city is on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal.

Energy Reduction Goal

The city’s 2020 municipal goals establish an energy reduction target of 20%. The city also participates in the Better Buildings Challenge.  The city is on track to meet its energy reduction goal.

Renewable Energy Goal

The 2020 municipal goals state the intention to double renewable energy use.

Last updated: June 2019

Procurement and Construction List All

Fleet Policies and Composition

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. Denver’s fleet is composed of 7.0% efficient vehicles, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric. 

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.

Green Building Requirements 

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. Additionally, municipal buildings are required to comply with the Green Building Ordinance. The Green Building Ordinance includes green building requirements such as green space installation, solar panel installation, Energy Program enrollment, or LEED Silver certification. After enrolling in the Energy Program a building has 5 years to achieve an ENERGY STAR score of 85, improve energy use intensity 10-15% above baseline, install solar panels, or purchase off-site solar power covering 100% of building electricity use. Buildings 25,000-50,000 square feet must improve EUI by 10%, those over 50,000 square feet must improve EUI by 15% in the program.

Last updated: June 2019

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. Energize Denver maps all benchmarked buildings. 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. The City is currently evaluating the opportunity for more EPCs to be implemented in 2019.

Public Workforce Commuting

Denver allows both telecommuting and flexible schedules through Section 9-80 of the Career Services Rules.

Last updated: June 2019

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 10.5 out of 16 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

Denver’s 80x50 Climate Action Plan sets sustainability goals for the city.

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: March 2019

Community-Wide Climate Mitigation and Energy GoalsList All

Climate Mitigation Goal

The city’s 80x50 Climate Action Plan sets a long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. The plan also sets emissions reduction goals at five years intervals. The 2020 goal is to reduce emissions 15% below 2005 levels. ACEEE does not project the city will meet its community-wide GHG emissions reduction goal. 

The city released greenhouse gas emissions data on an online dashboard.

Energy Reduction Goal

The 80x50 Climate Action Plan sets a goal of reducing commercial and multifamily building energy use 50% by 2050. Like the city’s climate mitigation goal, the energy reduction goal has interim goals. The 2020 goal is to reduce energy use 10% in these buildings by 2020. The city also has a goal to reduce energy use in single-family homes 10% by 2025.

Renewable Energy Goal

The city’s 80x50 Climate Action Plan has a goal of generating 100% of its electricity with renewable energy sources by 2030.

Energy Data Reporting

The city’s greenhouse gas website includes community-wide energy emissions.

Last updated: June 2019

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

Equity-Driven Community Engagement

We were unable to determine whether permanent city staff have taken a unique and expanded approach in conducting outreach for multiple clean energy initiatives to marginalized groups compared with outreach to 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: June 2019

Clean Distributed Energy SystemsList All

The City of Denver and Xcel Energy signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) titled the Energy Futures Collaboration. The MOU cites microgrid deployment, district energy installation, and other approaches as integral to achieving the city’s climate and energy goals.

The city is also creating a low-income solar garden located at the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site.

Last updated: June 2019

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.

The city has also passed a private tree protection ordinance.

In 2018, the city adopted a Green Buildings Ordinance that required all new developments over 25,000 square feet to install a cool roof. The ordinance also requires all existing developments of the same size undergoing roof replacements to install a cool roof.

Last updated: June 2019

Buildings Policies
Score: 20 out of 30 points
Buildings Summary List All

The City of Denver adopted the 2016 Denver Building Code which is composed of the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code with city amendments. Denver adopted a benchmarking and disclosure ordinance for commercial and multifamily buildings over 25,000. The city offers buildings incentives for both energy efficiency upgrades and solar installation. Buildings are required to comply with the Green Building Ordinance by choosing one energy action from a range of choices.

Last updated: March 2019

Building Energy Code AdoptionList 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 that 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.


Denver has adopted the 2015 IECC with local amendments. The city’s zEPI score for their commercial energy code is 52.3.


Denver has adopted the 2015 IECC with local amendments. The city’s zEPI score for their residential energy code is 53.4.

Solar- and EV-ready

Denver requires single- and two-family homes to be EV-ready. The city does not have a solar-ready requirement.

Last updated: March 2019

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Denver does not have staff solely dedicated to energy code compliance. For residential projects, Denver requires blower door tests for single-family homes, duplexes, and multifamily residential properties. The city’s commercial energy code requires building commission. Denver provides upfront support through public forums and online guidance documents.

Last updated: March 2019

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Commercial and multifamily

In December 2016, Denver city council passed the Energize Denver program that requires commercial and multifamily buildings over 25,000 square feet to report their score. The program covers 85% of commercial and multifamily buildings. Denver also has a voluntary program to encourage building benchmarking for commercial and multifamily buildings. Watts To Water is a program dedicated to reducing energy and water use in commercial buildings. Participating buildings must share data in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.


The city does not have a single-family benchmarking and disclosure policy.

Last updated: March 2019

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings and Renewable EnergyList All

Denver offers six incentives and financing programs for both energy efficiency upgrades and solar installation.

The Certifiably Green Denver program offers homeowners and small businesses loans to make energy efficiency upgrades. The Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Program provides funding to nonprofit organizations that pursue energy efficiency improvements. Property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing is available for commercial buildings for energy efficiency projects through Colorado’s C-PACE program. Denver also caps solar permitting fees at $50 and offers a $150 credit to any permit choosing the ERI or performance path.

Please note that each incentive/program is tallied based on the building types and energy resources eligible for award. For example, a PACE financing program that offers energy efficiency and renewable energy financing to both residential and commercial property owners is counted as four incentives.

Last updated: July 2019

Required Energy ActionsList All

The city requires developments over 25,000 square feet to choose one energy action from a menu of option in accordance with the Green Buildings Ordinance.

Developments may choose one action to achieve compliance: incorporate a green space into the building, install solar panels or purchase renewable energy covering 100% of the building’s electricity needs, achieve LEED Silver certification or better, enroll in Energize Denver’s Energy Program, or pay a fee. If a development chooses to enroll in the Energy Program, it must achieve an ENERGY STAR score of 85 or better or improve energy use intensity by 10% if the development is under 50,000 square feet and by 15% if the develop is over 50,000 square feet within five years.

Last updated: March 2019

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Workforce DevelopmentList All

Denver partnered with Xcel Energy to implement a workforce development program as part of the Denver Energy Challenge that included contractor certification training, health and safety training, and business sales training from 2011 to 2017.

Last updated: March 2019

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 11.5 out of 15 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

Xcel Energy (Public Service Co. of Colorado), an investor-owned utility (IOU), is the primary gas and electric utility serving the City of Denver. In 2018, Xcel became the first large IOU to set a goal of zero carbon electricity generation by 2050 and also to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2030 company-wide. The City of Denver is an active promoter of Xcel’s energy efficiency programs. In March 2018, Denver’s Mayor and the President of Xcel Energy Colorado signed the Energy Futures Collaboration. This MOU guides a partnership focused on climate and energy goals and includes project work on efficiency, renewables, resilience, smart technology, and more. 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: May 2019

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs and SavingsList All

In 2017, according to Xcel Energy, they achieved 386,710 MWh in net incremental savings, representing 1.35% of retail sales. In 2017, Xcel Energy reported savings of 6.27 MMtherms from natural gas efficiency programs, representing 0.57% of its retail sales. These savings figures cover 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 several programs. The Denver Energy Challenge cross promotes programs through mailings and customer service. The Denver Benchmarking Ordinance helps large commercial and multifamily buildings track energy consumption to enable the market to better value energy efficiency. The Denver Green Roof Initiative aims to help reduce cooling loads, among other goals, through reduced urban heat island effects and reduced roof heat-flow through on commercial buildings.

Last Updated: March 2019

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 2017, Xcel Energy saved 6,148 MWh and 0.81 MMtherms of energy from its low-income programs, while serving 7,121 electric and 8,085 natural gas customers. Households served include those receiving energy-saving kits and those 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.

In 2017, Xcel Energy’s Multifamily program saved 1,885 MWh and 0.14 MMtherms of energy and served 40 electric and 29 natural gas customers. Customers served do not include those who also received low-income weatherization.

Last Updated: March 2019

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

Xcel Energy does provide 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. The City of 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: March 2019

Renewable Energy Efforts of Energy UtilitiesList All

Renewable Energy Incentives

In 2017, Xcel Energy provided $442,925 in incentives for the installation of 20,700 kW of new distributed solar systems. This equates to $21/kW installed. These incentives were installed through Xcel’s Solar*Rewards program, which offers incentives for residential and commercial solar installations. The program is broken into a Small and Medium-sized offering, with $0.005/kWh provided for installations of 0.05 kW–25 kW and $0.0475/kWh for installations between 25.01 kW–500 kW. In 2017, the small program installed 14,560 kW and the medium program installed 6,140 kW.

City-Led Efforts to Decarbonize the Electric Grid

Denver has played an active role on many fronts to pursue additional renewables at the utility and local scale. In 2016, the city and county of Denver contributed to multiple Public Utility Commission rate cases, which will allow customers of Xcel Energy more control over their energy choices, bring more renewables and carbon-free energy to Colorado and Denver, and provide affordable and reliable energy to the state’s economy. In January 2018, the city and county of Denver and Xcel Energy signed an innovative and progressive partnership agreement called the Energy Futures Collaboration. This partnership lays out an expedited pathway for Denver to pursue independent clean energy projects that help the city meet its energy and climate goals in partnership with Xcel Energy. In addition, Xcel Energy’s recent announcement of a carbon neutral electricity goal system-wide by 2050 cited commitments and pressure from cities like Denver who have set aggressive renewable electricity goals.

Last Updated: March 2019

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

City-wide water efficiency and goals

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

Water plant 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.

Last Updated: March 2019

Score: 16 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

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

Sustainable Transportation Plan

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. In addition, Denver’s Mobility Action Plan was published in July 2017 and sets goals to reduce drive alone rates, emissions, and traffic deaths. The plan focuses on the key metric of reducing Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV) driving rates to no more than 50% of trips, which is closely tied to VMT. The City also has a Denver Moves suite of plans that lay out detailed priorities for all transportation modes.

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

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. The City is currently working on a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Plan for development that will update and advance these policies by encouraging new developments to consider all transportation modes as opposed to only parking.

Residential Parking Policies

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. The City has recently started implementing parking maximums in several locations with transportation constraints such as the 41st & Fox TOD area. The TDM Plan will identify changes to City rules and regulations that can advance these efforts.

Location Efficiency Incentives and Disclosure

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

Last Updated: March 2019

Mode Shift List All

Mode Shift Targets

Denver has a goal to reduce single-occupant vehicle (SOV) commuters to 50% and increase the percentage of bike and pedestrian commuters to 15% and transit commuters to 15% by 2030.

Progress Achieved Toward Mode Shift Targets

Denver tracks progress towards these goals in several ways. The City use the US Census ACS estimates to track SOV rates at the citywide level and supplements these national data with an employee commuter survey in partnership with local Transportation Management Associations (TMAs) and local employers at the neighborhood level. Denver’s citywide SOV rates are 75.9% according to the most recent census estimates, and Denver has yet to close its employer commuter survey for the year.

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.

Car Sharing

There are three car sharing programs currently available to the residents and visitors of Denver, Enterprise CarShareeGo CarShare, Car2go and zipcar. Denver has a carshare permit program to provide dedicated on-street and off-street spaces for carshare vehicles.

Bike Sharing

The city is served by a bike sharing program, Denver BCycle, with about 737 bicycles and 89 stations.

Last Updated: May 2019

Transit List All

Transportation Funding

The RTD-Denver transit system that serves Denver has received $487,004,064.40 in average annual funding from 2013-2017. This funding level equates to $174.01 per resident in the service territory of the agency which puts Denver in the highest category (>$150) 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 Denver’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 7.9, putting it in the third highest category (7-7.99) available in the City Scorecard.

Last Updated: March 2019

Efficient VehiclesList All

Vehicle Purchase Incentives

At this time, Denver does not offer incentives for citizens to purchase hybrid, plug-in, or EV vehicles.

Vehicle Infrastructure Incentives

There are no incentives available for the construction of EV charging infrastructure.

EV Charging Locations

The City owns 107 charging stations available for public use.

Renewable Charging Incentives

At this time, the City of Denver 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

Denver does not have a sustainable freight transportation plan in place. However, the City is working on an Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment Program (ATCMTD). ATCMTD is a $12M ($6M grant, $6M match) federal grant that deploys technology to address traffic congestion and safety. One example is connected freight, which focuses on using connected vehicle technology that allows trucks to communicate with the City’s traffic signals to reduce the impact delivery and freight trucks have in local communities, increase safety, improve delivery time reliability, and provide cost savings to participating cargo companies.

Last Updated: March 2019

Clean, Efficient Transportation for Low-Income CommunitiesList All

Affordable New TOD Housing Policy

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.

Connecting Existing Affordable Housing Stock to Efficient Transportation Options

Denver will be launching its first electric vehicle carshare pilot program in a low-income neighborhood in early 2019. The City has funded the installation of a charging station to support this project as well as providing discounted carshare memberships to community members. The City has also worked with the regional transit provider RTD to improve the accessibility of transit for low-income and youth riders through discounted fares.

Low-Income Access to High Quality Transit

In the City of Denver, almost 45% of low-income households have access to high-quality transit.

Last Updated: April 2019