State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Houston, TX

36.50Scored out of 100Updated 10/2020
Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 5 out of 15 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The City of Houston recently released its first Climate Action Plan, which provides a roadmap for the city to achieve carbon neutrality.

Last updated: September 2021

Community-Wide Climate Mitigation and Energy GoalsList All

Climate Mitigation Goal

Houston’s Mayor Parker pledged the city to an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 by 2050. The Climate Action Plan includes an interim goal of reducing community-wide emissions 40% below 2014 levels by 2030. ACEEE was unable to project if the city will achieve its near-term community-wide GHG emissions reduction goal because insufficient GHG emissions data were available for our analysis.

The city publishes community-wide greenhouse gas inventories through the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Energy Reduction Goal

Houston participates in the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge and has committed to a 20% energy use reduction by 2020 for 30 million square feet of public and private buildings.

Renewable Energy Goal

The city has a goal to generate 5 million MWh from local rooftop and community solar projects per year by 2050.

Last updated: September 2021

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

Equity-Driven Community Engagement

The city's Complete Communities initiative created ten unique development plans for ten historically under resourced neighborhoods. The city held several community meetings for each plan where residents could engage directly with plan developers. 

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.

Equity Accountability Measures

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: September 2021

Clean Distributed Energy ResourcesList All

Houston is in the process of redeveloping a former landfill in Sunnyside, a neighborhood in the Complete Communities program. The City is working with Sunnyside Energy to convert the 240-acre Holmes Road landfill into a 70 MW solar farm.

Last updated: September 2021

Mitigation of Heat Islands List All

UHI Mitigation Goal

The city's Climate Action Plan includes a goal of planting 4.6 million new native trees by 2030.

UHI Policies and Programs

The Energy Conservation Code requires cool roofs on all commercial buildings, and residential buildings with low-sloped roofs must have a minimum solar reflectance of 0.70 and a thermal emittance of 0.75.

The city provides development incentives for the preservation of open space.

The city's Incentives for Green Development plan developed recommendations for incentives to encourage greater implementation of green stormwater infrastructure in private development projects. The stated goal is to implement the plan's recommendations by 2022.

Last updated: September 2021

Buildings Policies
Score: 8.5 out of 30 points
Buildings Summary List All

The City of Houston adopted the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code with city amendments. The city provides support for developers and building owners with upfront support through the Green Building Resource Center. Houston does not have a benchmarking and disclosure ordinance, but runs a voluntary benchmarking program for commercial buildings. Houston also offers incentives for energy efficiency, solar, and low-income projects.

Last updated: July 2021

Building Energy CodesList All


The State of Texas allows its local jurisdictions to adopt and amend building energy codes that are at least as stringent as the Texas Building Energy Code. The minimum state standard for single-family residential construction must comply with the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC). All other residential and commercial building construction must comply with the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). State-funded building construction must comply with ASHRAE 90.1-2013. To learn more about Texas’s building energy code requirements, please visit the State Policy Database.


Houston adopted the 2015 IECC for commercial buildings with amendments, effective December 2016. The city also adopted ASHRAE 90.1-2013 with amendments, effective December 2016. The city’s zEPI score for their commercial energy code is 53.7.


Houston adopted the 2015 IECC for residential buildings with amendments, effective October 2016. The city’s zEPI score for their residential energy code is 59.8.

Solar-readiness policies 

One of Houston’s amendment to the 2015 IRC includes a provision requiring new residential buildings to be solar-ready by installing a conduit. Houston does not have legislation regarding solar ready for commercial buildings. However, in 2019 Houston began requiring multi-family buildings receiving CDBG-DR funding to be solar ready. 

EV-charging readiness and infrastructure policies

The City of Houston does not have legislation mandating EV-ready installation. However, in 2019 the City began requiring CDBG-DR funded multi-family projects to be EV ready.

Low-energy use requirement

Houston requires new construction of or major renovation to municipal buildings greater than 10,000 square feet to achieve LEED Silver standards.

Last updated: July 2021

Building Energy Code Compliance and EnforcementList All

Houston does not have internal staff solely dedicated to energy code compliance. Houston requires third-party review and performance testing for building energy code compliance. The city’s Code Enforcement Department provides upfront code support for all builders and developers through the Green Building Resource Center. The program offers plan reviews, cost-effective green options, and energy efficiency classes. The City of Houston offers incentive pay to internal employees who obtain certifications in Residential, Building Code, MEP, and IECC.

Last updated: July 2021

Policies Targeting Existing BuildingsList All


Energy efficiency financing is available to commercial and multifamily building owners through PACE Houston. The City of Houston fast-tracks solar panel permits for residential properties. 

The City also offers a LEED incentive program, which allows buildings registered for LEED certification to take part in the Quick Start program. The Quick Start program provides a means for expediting the plan review of certain large commercial design projects.

Voluntary programs

Houston started a voluntary commercial benchmarking program in partnerships with Better Buildings

Last updated: July 2021

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Workforce DevelopmentList All

The city worked with Houston Community College/Northeast Energy Institute to develop a solar curriculum as part of the Solar Houston Initiative.

Last updated: October 2021

Score: 11 out of 30 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the city of Houston is The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. METRO also provides the public transportation for the city and the broader metropolitan area, including bus and light rail service. The Houston-Galveston Area Council is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Houston and Galveston, as well as many surrounding towns and counties. The Department of Administration and Regulatory Affairs is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network.

Last updated: January 2017

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

Sustainable Transportation Plan

The City of Houston has a city mobility plan that emphasizes multimodal mobility solutions, with sub-regional studies still ongoing across various areas in the City. The City of Houston also started its first Climate Action Plan (CAP). This plan will act as a roadmap for the City, businesses, residents, and communities to reduce their GHG emissions and become carbon neutral by 2050. The City is currently in the CAP planning process and has not identified specific targeted actions to reach its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. The city hopes to reach 100% renewable power for city operations by 2025. 

VMT/GHG Target and Stringency

The CAP includes a goal to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita, setting the target for 20% by 2050.  This target is the nearest term goal, at this time. The goal's baseline is 14,754 miles per capita in 2014.

Progress Achieved Toward VMT/GHG Targets

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

Last Updated: November 2021

Location Efficiency List All

Location Efficient Zoning Codes

Houston has no zoning code. However, Houston does have a tax abatement program and other incentives for transit-oriented and mixed-use development. Chapter 42 addresses Transit Oriented Development. Transit-oriented development is incentivized in identified transit corridors. Street connectivity is required per Chapter 42 intersection spacing requirements.

Setback requirements influence urban form and encourage high-density single-family developments. Optional performance standards encourage reduced setbacks on commercial and transit corridors to improve walkability. Rules are applied according to street type throughout the City rather than by neighborhood. Staff is working on an amendment to Chapter 42 (Walkable Places District) that would allow creation of areas or corridors with mandatory rules for reduced setbacks, transparency on building facades, wider sidewalks and reduced parking. (Chapter 42). Special Parking Areas are overlay districts allowing for reduced parking requirements. (Chapter 26).

The City has started its first Climate Action Plan (CAP).  This plan will act as a roadmap for the City, businesses, residents and communities to reduce their GHG emissions and become carbon neutral by 2050. A Resilient Houston strategy is being developed to address climate risks and adaptation  efforts in the City. The Climate Action Plan, Resilient Houston strategy and Climate Risk Assessment will be completed by the end of 2019.

Residential Parking Policies

Houston eliminated parking requirements for the Central Business District and is seeking to expand the policy to neighboring areas. Houston currently has minimum parking requirements in the rest of the city. Parking regulations are found in Chapter 26 of the code. Commercial properties with historic designation have a reduced parking requirement as well as properties located on transit corridors if they opt into the performance standards. The Walkable Places District will allow special areas with reduced minimum or maximum parking requirements. This is anticipated to go to City Council in June 2019.

Houston set and met targets for municipal emission reductions in the past. We hope to reach 100% renewable power for city operations by 2025. The City has started its first Climate Action Plan (CAP).  This plan will act as a roadmap for the City, businesses, residents and communities to reduce their GHG emissions and become carbon neutral by 2050. A Resilient Houston strategy is being developed to address climate risks and adaptation  efforts in the City. The Climate Action Plan, Resilient Houston strategy and Climate Risk Assessment will be completed by the end of 2019.

Location Efficiency Incentives and Disclosure

The City’s Transit Oriented Development and Walkable Places ordinances offer incentives for locating in mixed use, walkable and transit friendly areas. Developers may take advantage of reduced parking requirements and setbacks in exchange for meeting minimum criteria such as locating parking in the rear of the structure and including street facing windows and doors.

Last Updated: November 2021

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. Houston set and met targets for municipal emission reductions in the past. The city hopes to reach 100% renewable power for city operations by 2025. The City has started its first Climate Action Plan (CAP).  This plan will act as a roadmap for the City, businesses, residents and communities to reduce their GHG emissions and become carbon neutral by 2050. A Resilient Houston strategy is being developed to address climate risks and adaptation  efforts in the City. The Climate Action Plan, Resilient Houston strategy and Climate Risk Assessment will be completed by the end of 2019.

Progress Achieved Toward Mode Shift Targets

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

Complete Streets

Houston passed a Complete Streets policy in 2013.

Last Updated: November 2021

Public Transit List All

Transportation Funding

The transportation entities that serve the City of Houston have received $633,933,497.07 on average annually between 2015 and 2019. That equates to roughly $168.70 per capita between 2015 and 2019 within the Authority's service area. 

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 Houston's Transit Connectivity Index value is 5.9, scoring 0.5 points in the City Scorecard.

Last Updated: November 2021

Efficient VehiclesList All

Vehicle Purchase Incentives

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

Evolve Houston is a coalition of sustainability-minded civic and business leaders who want to accelerate clean transportation and zero-emissions goods movement through electrification. Evolve Houston aims to improve regional air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by motivating the transition to electric vehicles across sectors in the Greater Houston Area.

Vehicle Infrastructure Incentives

Entergy's eTech program offers customers an incentive for purchasing electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  Entergy is an investor owned electric utility operating in Houston.

EV Charging Locations

The City has 595 charging ports available for public use, equivalent to 25.6 ports per 100,000 people.

Electric School Bus Goal

Houston does not have an electric school bus goal.

EV Transit Bus Goal

The Houston CAP includes a goal to shift regional fleet to electric and low-emissions vehicles.  METRO, the local transit authority,  converted approximately 40% of its fleet to hybrid technology, which includes 440 diesel-electric hybrid buses.

Last Updated: November 2021

Freight System EfficiencyList All

The Gulf Coast Rail District was created by the City of Houston and regional partners in 2007 to promote freight and passenger rail transportation,  The GCRD has secured federal grants for construction of grade separations that will improve freight rail movement and reduce vehicle delays, both of which reduce emissions.

Last Updated: November 2021

Clean, Efficient Transportation for Low-Income CommunitiesList All

Affordable New TOD Housing Policy

Houston outlines policies to encourage the development of higher density housing—including affordable housing—within urban centers that are well served by multiple transportation modes within its’ Urban Houston Framework. In addition, the city’s Midtown TIRZ project plan requires one-third of all investments be dedicated to affordable housing along the rail line for both families and individuals to ensure a mixed-income neighborhood that sustains Midtown. The city's Planning Commission has also granted variances from SF density limits if a developer agrees that all units above the density limit will be low/moderate income housing.

Connecting Existing Affordable Housing Stock to Efficient Transportation Options

Houston does not currently provide rebates or incentives to low-income residents for efficient transportation options. METRO, the local transit authority, provides incentives.

Last Updated: November 2021

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 7.5 out of 15 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

CenterPoint Energy, an investor-owned utility (IOU), is the primary gas and electric utility serving the city of Houston. The City of Houston is an active promoter of CenterPoint’s energy efficiency programs. The State of Texas requires electric utilities to offset load-growth through end-use energy efficiency, mandated through an EERS. The utilities must also submit their energy savings goals to the Public Utility Commission of Texas. To learn more about the state requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Texas page of the State Database. On the state level, Houston strongly advocates for additional spending requirements for energy efficiency projects for all of its utilities. 

The Houston Public Works and Engineering Department is the municipal utility that provides Houston with drinking water services, wastewater treatment, and stormwater management. 

Last Updated: July 2021  

Electricity and Natural Gas Efficiency SavingsList All

In 2019, according to EIA, CenterPoint Energy achieved 176,392 MWh in net electric incremental savings, representing 0.40% of electric retail sales. In 2019, according to EIA, CenterPoint Energy spent $31,116,000 on electric energy efficiency programs, which represents 0.76% of its electric retail revenue. 

CenterPoint did not spend or did not report spending or savings on natural gas efficiency programs. These savings figures cover the entire Texas service territory, not just Houston. 

CenterPoint Energy offers natural gas and electric efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers. 

The city is a member of Evolve Houston through which it partners with CenterPoint to promote electric vehicles in Houston. CenterPoint also is a sponsor of the Houston Climate Action Plan.  

Last Updated: July 2021 

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs 

CenterPoint Energy offers the Hard-to-Reach Standard Offer Program to qualified low-income residential customers. Through this program, incentives are paid to project sponsors for qualifying measures installed in retrofit applications that provide verifiable demand and energy savings to low-income customers. Qualifying measures include installation of insulation, air sealing, replacement of air conditioning duct systems, refrigerator replacement, water-saving measures, and lighting fixtures. The program does not target specific households or streamline eligibility requirements. CenterPoint markets the program through email and internet campaigns, relevant meetings and workshops, and statewide outreach opportunities. CenterPoint Energy also offeres the Agencies in Action program, which works in partnership with community action agencies to offer low-income weatherization.

Spending and energy saving values and number of customers served by CenterPoint Energy’s 2019 low-income programs were not available. 

In partnership with the local electric utility company, the City’s Sustainability Office is providing up to $5 million per year in targeted energy efficiency improvements to low-income, multi-family housing complexes being redeveloped following Hurricane Harvey. 

Multifamily Programs 

CenterPoint Energy offers the Multifamily MTP program. This program encompasses three different segments: Multifamily Water and Space Heating, High Performance Multifamily, and Multifamily Direct Install. The Multifamily Water and Space Heating segment includes upgrades to boiler systems, individual gas water and space heating units, and combination gas water heating and space heating systems. The High Performance Multifamily segment targets new buildings that are built to ENERGY STAR® version 3.0 standards or above current energy code via the high-performance path with pay-for-performance based kWh incentives. The Multifamily Direct Install Program offers property owners and managers a free visual audit of existing units and provides eligible properties with no-cost direct install measures, which may include CFLs, water savings measures (faucet aerator, low-flow showerhead), water heater tank wrap, and water heater pipe insulation. In addition, a tenant education handout will be left in the unit explaining the benefits of energy efficiency and tips on how to save energy. 

Spending and energy saving values and number of customers served by their 2019 multifamily programs were not available. 

Last Updated: July 2021  

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

CenterPoint Energy does not provide building managers with automated benchmarking data through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager for multitenant commercial or multifamily buildings.  

The city of Houston provides community wide energy usage information for planning and evaluation purposes through their GHG emissions inventory. CenterPoint and Entergy provide community-wide energy usage information at the aggregate level to the City upon request. The most recent request was made in 2020 for the 2019 GHG emissions inventory update

The City of Houston, as part of the City Energy Project, is working to accelerate access to energy data to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. 

Last Updated: July 2021  

Decarbonization and Climate Change Mitigation Efforts of Energy UtilitiesList All

Utility Climate Mitigation Goal  

In 2020, CenterPoint Energy announced a goal to reduce operational greenhouse gas emission by 70% by 2035, compared to 2005 baseline levels. To achieve this goal, CenterPoint Energy will need to reduce emissions by 3.7% annually from 2019 levels.

City-Led Efforts to Decarbonize the Electric Grid 

The City, as a member of the Entergy Coalition of Cities, and is participating in a proceeding related to Entergy's request to deploy natural gas fired distributed generation.  

The Houston Climate Action Plan, which is sponsored by CenterPoint, includes goals to grow Houston’s investment in renewable and resilient energy and to make Houston a leader in carbon capture technology and energy innovation. This includes supporting and promoting the use and development of renewable energy, advocating for renewable energy policies at the local, state, and federal levels. More specific targets include organizing Texas mayors and community leaders to lobby state legislature to increase the Texas renewable energy policies to achieve 80% zero carbon electricity by 2050, create policies that facilitate renewable energy for the US Power Sector, work with partners to identify available potential solar/storage rebates and incentives, and support financing mechanisms to promote investment in renewable energy. 

Last Updated: August 2021  

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Citywide Water Efficiency and Goals 

The City of Houston has participated in load saving programs over the years with CenterPoint energy during high demands. Certain plants and associated pieces of equipment were identified to help lower electrical demand when specified. 

The City recently updated its water conservation plans in the 2019 update, showing water conservation goals and continuous progress that will preserve long-term water supplies for the city and greater Houston region. The City has committed both labor and resources in support of its Waterworks Education Center, which currently serves as an education center for water-related efforts in the community. The City recently established a water conservation task force to develop conservation goals and best practices. 

Water Plant Efficiency and Self-Generation 

The City of Houston recently released its Climate Action Plan, which includes a goal to reduce water and wastewater energy consumption by 10% through optimization of facility operations and water conservation. The City has also implemented several energy conservation upgrades and improvements for wastewater treatment plants and wastewater lift stations, as well as upgrading infrastructure with lower energy consuming lighting. The city also installed a Specific Energy Pump Optimizer system at a facility to minimize energy consumption.  

The City’s water system currently does not self-generate its own energy. 

Last Updated: July 2021 

Local Government Score:
4.5 out of 10 points
Local Government Climate and Energy Goals List All

The City of Houston's Climate Action Plan guides energy and climate goals for the City.

Climate Mitigation Goal

The City of Houston has a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 through its Climate Action Plan, which also applies to municipal operations.  The Houston Climate Action Plan sets interim greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals for 2030  (40% reduction) and 2040 (75% reduction) from the 2014 baseline, with the final goal of a 100% reduction by 2050. ACEEE was unable to project if the city will achieve its near-term local government GHG emissions reduction goal because insufficient GHG emissions data were available for our analysis.

Energy Reduction Goal

Through the Better Buildings Challenge, the city established a goal to achieve 20% energy reduction below 2008 levels by 2021. Municipal buildings account for 7 million out of 30 million square feet of the city’s commitment. Additionally, per state law (Texas Health and Safety Code §388.005), the City of Houston is required to establish a goal to reduce electric consumption by at least five percent each state fiscal year. The City of Houston actively strives to meet this 5% target each year.

Renewable Energy Goal

The City's Climate Action Plan includes a goal to use 100% renewable energy for municipal operations by 2025. As of July 1, 2020, Houston began purchasing 100% renewable energy through a contract with the City's retail electric provider.

Last updated: June 2021

Procurement and Construction Policies List All

Fleet Policies and Composition

Houston’s fleet department requires that at least 25% of non-emergency on-road vehicles purchases after in or after 2020 are low-emission or alternative fuel vehicles. The Houston Climate Action Plan includes a target to convert non-emergency, light-duty municipal fleet to 100% EV, electric or hybrid vehicles, by 2030. Houston’s municipal fleet is currently composed of 5.8% efficient vehicles, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric vehicles. 

Public Lighting

Houston has not adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance, however the city’s streetlights have photo sensors, so they only operate when needed. Houston and CenterPoint Energy have converted 175,438 streetlights to LEDs, accounting for approximately 98% of the city’s streetlights. 

Onsite and offsite renewable systems

Houston has installed over 106 kW of renewable generation capacity on City facilities.

Inclusive procurement

The City has an MWDBE (minority, women-owned and disadvantaged business enterprises) program to stimulate the growth of MWDBE by encouraging their full participation in procurement activities and by affording fair opportunity to compete in City contracts.  The policy has been applied to the City's electric supply agreement, through which Houston purchases 100% renewable energy.

Last updated: June 2021

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking

Houston benchmarks 100% of municipal buildings. Houston committed approximately 21% (of total square feet) to the Better Buildings Challenge. Energy use is monitored annually through Energy Star Portfolio. The Houston CAP includes a target to adopt a municipal benchmarking and disclosure policy for municipal buildings by 2021.

Comprehensive Retrofit Strategy

In the City’s municipal energy efficiency program, 6 million square feet of municipal buildings are achieving guaranteed energy use reductions approaching 30% with average paybacks of less than 10 years. The City makes energy efficiency upgrades through the use of CIP projects. The City is also participating in a sub-metering program that allows key users to monitor electricity usage in real-time and more effectively respond to inefficiencies. Additional initiatives include the City of Houston General Services Department (GSD) Energy Efficiency Project. GSD applied to the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) for energy efficiency funding under its LoanSTAR (Saving Taxes and Resources) Revolving Loan Program to fund the energy cost reduction measures identified by Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) Energy Systems Laboratory. TEES conducted and developed a Preliminary Energy Assessment (PEA). The total estimated cost of the loan, including energy cost reduction measures and project management is $2,326,526 with a payback of 8.7 years. GSD will implement the energy cost reduction measures at several City facilities. 

Last updated: June 2021