State and Local Policy Database

Houston

City Scorecard Rank

25

Houston, TX

40.50Scored out of 100Updated 5/2017
Local Government Score:
5.5 out of 10 points
Local Government Summary List All

Houston had a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from local government operations, however, the city has not updated this target. Responsibility for implementing strategies to reduce pollution and increase energy efficiency is split between the Mayor’s Office and the Energy Section of the General Services Department.

Last updated: February 2017

Local Government Climate and Energy Goals List All

The City of Houston is in the process of drafting the city’s first climate action plan for city operations and community. The plan’s main objective is to guide the city to carbon neutrality by 2050.

Climate Mitigation Goal

The city does not have a climate mitigation or greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal for municipal operations.

Energy Reduction Goal

Through the Better Buildings Challenge, the city established a goal to achieve 20% energy reduction below 2008 levels by 2020. Municipal buildings account for 7 million out of 30 million square feet of the city’s commitment.

Renewable Energy Goal

We did not find information regarding a municipal renewable energy goal.

Last updated: March 2019

Procurement and Construction List All

Fleet Policies and Composition

We did not find information on Houston’s fleet procurement policy or fuel efficiency requirements. Houston’s fleet is composed of 6.7% efficient vehicles, including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and battery electric.

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 169,045 streetlights to LEDs, accounting for approximately 95% of the city’s streetlights. 

New Buildings

The city's green building policy that sets a target of LEED Silver certification for new construction, replacement facilities, and major renovations of city-owned or -funded buildings and facilities with more than 10,000 square feet of occupied space. Administrative Procedure 7-1 City Energy Efficiency Policy (Section 7.2.7 Equipment Purchasing) specifies that all purchases of equipment, appliances, and computers should be ENERGY STAR– rated when feasible.

Last updated: March 2019

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

Houston benchmarks 100% of municipal buildings. 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.

Public Employees

Houston does not have a telework or flexible schedule policy for City employees.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 3.5 out of 12 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The City of Houston has recently began planning its first Climate Action Plan, which will serve as a roadmap for the city to achieve carbon neutrality.

Last updated: March 2019

Climate Action and Energy Planning GoalsList All

Climate Mitigation Goal

While Houston’s Mayor Parker pledged the city to an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 by 2050, we were unable to verify if the city formally adopted the goal through a mayoral action or city council resolution.

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 does not have a community-wide renewable energy goal.

Energy Data Reporting

An online dashboard displays progress towards the city’s Better Buildings Challenge goal.  

Last updated: March 2019

Equitable Climate Action and Energy Planning List All

Equitable Community Outreach

The city did not increase its outreach to marginalized groups relative to other city constituencies in the planning and implementation of a local energy, sustainability, or climate action plan.

Equitable Decision-Making

The city has not created a formal role for local organizations representing low-income or communities of color to participate in decision-making that affects the creation or implementation of a local energy, sustainability, or climate action plan. 

Accountability to Equity

The city has not established goals or published methods for tracking how energy, sustainability, or climate action initiatives are reversing any ongoing actions that disadvantage marginalized residents. 

Last updated: March 2019

Clean Distributed Energy SystemsList All

The City of Houston fast-tracks solar panel permits for residential properties.

Last updated: March 2019

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

Million Trees + Houston established a three- to five-year goal to plant one million trees.

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.

Last updated: March 2019

Buildings Policies
Score: 14 out of 28 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: March 2019

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

Overview

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.

Commercial

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.

Residential

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- and EV-ready

One of Houston’s amendment to the 2015 IRC includes a provision requiring new residential buildings to be solar-ready by installing a conduit. The city has not formally adopted an EV-ready mandate.

Last updated: March 2019

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList 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. 

Last updated: March 2019

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings and Renewable EnergyList All

Houston offers five incentives and financing programs for energy efficiency upgrades, solar installations, and low-income programs.

Houston offers tax abatements and expedited permitting to commercial buildings that meet LEED standards. Commercial building owners can receive grants for energy retrofits through the City's Energy Efficiency Incentive Program. Houston offers weatherization to income-qualified homes. Energy efficiency financing is available to commercial and multifamily building owners through PACE Houston. The Hard-to-Reach Standard Offer Program allows households 200% below the federal poverty line to access financing for home energy efficiency improvement projects. 

Last updated: March 2019

Required Energy ActionsList All

Houston does not require building developments perform additional above-code energy-saving actions.

Last updated: March 2019

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: March 2019

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Commercial and multifamily

Houston does not have a mandatory benchmarking and disclosure policy for commercial and multifamily buildings. Houston started a voluntary commercial benchmarking program, the Green Office Challenge, to encourage commercial buildings to benchmark and share their energy usage data. 

Single-family     

The city does not have a single-family benchmarking and disclosure policy. The multiple listing service which serves the Houston region, Houston Green MLS, includes many fields for energy efficiency features of homes listed on the market.

Last updated: March 2019

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 6.5 out of 20 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: March 2019

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs and SavingsList All

In 2017, according Energy Information Administration, CenterPoint Energy achieved 157,068 MWh in net incremental savings, representing 0.37% of retail sales. 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.

At this time, the City of Houston does not have a formal partnership with CenterPoint Energy in the form of a jointly-developed or administered energy saving strategy, plan, or agreement.

Last Updated: March 2019

Renewable Energy Efforts of Energy UtilitiesList All

Renewable Energy Incentives

In 2017, CenterPoint Energy did not provide renewable energy incentives for the construction of new distributed solar or wind systems.

City-Led Efforts to Decarbonize the Electric Grid

To our knowledge, the city of Houston does not participate in activities or strategies to help spur or encourage more utility-scale or distributed renewable energy generation from its local electric utility, such as testifying in public utility commission proceedings related to renewable energy, creating a formal partnership with the electric utility on renewable generation, or participating in utility planning efforts to increase renewable generation.

Last Updated: March 2019

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.

In 2017, according to CenterPoint Energy’s 2018 Energy Plan and Report, it achieved 7,583 MWh across its Hard-to-Reach programs, while serving 3,254 customers.

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.

In 2017, according to CenterPoint Energy’s 2018 Energy Plan and Report, it achieved 9,790 MWh from its multifamily programs, while serving 4,457 customers.

Last Updated: March 2019

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

CenterPoint does not provide energy usage data to building managers for input into ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. 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: March 2019

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

City-wide 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. Houston has a water conservation target of reducing unaccounted water use by 11% by 2020, as well as a target to reduce residential water usage by little more than 1 gallon per day by 2019, or a 1.6% reduction over five years. 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

Houston’s Department of Public Works has not yet established an energy efficiency goal for water operations. However, the City of Houston has 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’s water system currently does not self-generate its own energy.

Last Updated: March 2019

Transportation
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.

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

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).

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.

Location Efficiency Incentives and Disclosure

As an incentive to promote location-efficient real estate development, the city passed Ordinance 2012-739 in 2012, establishing an economic development program called the Downtown Living Initiative Chapter 380 Program. The program promotes economic development and stimulates business and commercial activity in the target area by providing economic and other development incentives for new multifamily residential mixed-use developments. Houston also has a tax abatement program for mixed-use development.

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

Houston passed a Complete Streets policy in 2013.

Car Sharing

Houston is served both by zipcar and Enterprise CarShare. The City of Houston has a formal policy in place to provide on-street and off-street parking for car-share vehicles.

Bike Sharing

The City is served by a bike sharing program, Houston B-cycle with over 72 operational stations and 475 bikes. Houston allows bikeshare docking stations to be located on sidewalks where space allows and with approval of the Public Works Department. The administration is considering adopting rules that would require dockless bikes/scooters to be stored in corrals when not rented out. These corrals, essentially a painted box, could be located on the street pavement, sidewalk, or private property.

Last Updated: March 2019

Transit List All

Transportation Funding

The Harris County MTA, Harris County Community Services Department, Office of Transit Services, Harris County Improvement District, and Greater Southeast Management District transit systems that serve Houston have received $280,267,321 in average annual funding from 2013-2017. This funding level is $42.23 per resident in the service territory of the agency, putting it 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 Houston’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 6.1, 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

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

Vehicle Infrastructure Incentives

Houston offers the Houston Drives Electric initiative. The 2011 Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan mapped Houston’s way to securing funding and installing charging ports. The City is part of the Houston-Galveston Clean Cities Coalition. Permits are fast-tracked, and the City has partnered with its utility on an electric vehicle charging station pilot.

EV Charging Locations

The City owns 141 charging stations available for public use.

Renewable Charging Incentives

Permits are fast-tracked, and Houston has partnered with its utility on an electric vehicle charging station pilot.

Last Updated: March 2019

Freight List All

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

Last Updated: March 2019

Low-Income Transportation AccessList 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.

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.

Low-Income Access to High Quality Transit

In the City of Houston, 54% of low-income households have access to high-quality transit.

Last Updated: March 2019