State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Knoxville, TN

27.00Scored out of 100Updated 8/2019
Local Government Score:
12 out of 15 points
Local Government Summary List All

Knoxville’s 2014 Energy and Sustainability Work Plan describes the city’s energy and climate strategies for its internal government operations.  Knoxville’s varied strategies work to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from municipal buildings and streetlights and reduce the fuel use and vehicle miles traveled of the municipal fleet. 

Last updated: October 2015

Local Government Climate and Energy Goals List All

The city’s stated goals for its local government operations are to reduce greenhouse emissions 12% under 2005 levels by 2012, 15% by 2015, and 20% by 2020.  In 2012, the City Council passed a resolution adopting the 20% by 2020 energy reduction goal.

Last updated: October 2015

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

Knoxville’s Green Fleet Policy requires the city to consider vehicle fuel efficiency when making purchases.  Right-sizing and anti-idling provisions for the municipal fleet are also included in the Green Fleet Policy.  The city has installed 24 electric-vehicle charging stations that are also open to the public.

Public Lighting

Knoxville has an agreement with the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) that streetlighting retrofits and new construction include LEDs.  All of the city’s traffic lights have been retrofitted with LEDs. Streetlights are scheduled to operate for only the hours needed.

New Buildings and Equipment

Knoxville’s building construction policy requires all new municipal construction to meet ENERGY STAR or LEED certification. Knoxville developed the Green Purchasing Guide, which city government must adhere to, that recommends buying sustainable products when feasible and fiscally prudent.

Last updated: October 2015

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

Knoxville benchmarks 100% of municipal buildings and has done so since 2007.  The city entered into an energy performance contract with Ameresco in 2010 for municipal buildings.  Ameresco has since completed all retrofits under the scope of the 2010 contract.

Public Employees

Knoxville is a partner in Smart Trips, a commuter incentive program that encourages teleworking and flexible schedules.  

Last updated: October 2015

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 5 out of 10 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The sustainability team in the Policy and Communications Department of the Mayor’s Office leads the city’s implementation of its community-wide energy efficiency initiatives. The city identified a community-wide energy-related goal in its sustainability work plan and has urban heat island programs. 


Last Updated: October 2015

Community-Wide Climate Mitigation and Energy GoalsList All

Knoxville’s Energy and Sustainability Work Plan sets a goal to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 although we cannot confirm the goal was adopted.  We did not collect information on the extent of stakeholder involvement in the setting of the goal.

Last updated: October 2015

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

Equity-Driven Community Engagement

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

Equity-Driven Decision-Making

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

Accountability to Equity

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

Last updated: August 2020

Clean Distributed Energy SystemsList All

There is one district energy system in Knoxville, but we could not locate information on the system’s capacities.  Knoxville’s combined heat and power capacity is 5,000 kW, meaning that the CHP capacity per 100,000 residents is 2.8 MW.  None of the district energy systems integrate CHP.

Last updated: October 2013

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

UHI Mitigation Goal

We could not verify if the city has adopted a quantifiable urban heat island mitigation goal.

UHI Policies and Programs

Knoxville has a Tree Protection Ordinance and a tree management plan to increase the tree canopy and specific diversification.  Also, the Knoxville Utilities Board is installing cool roofs.

Last updated: August 2020

Buildings Policies
Score: 12 out of 29 points
Buildings Summary List All

Knoxville has some building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including an energy savings target and upfront code support. The Building Codes, Permits, and Inspections Department manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Knoxville.

Last Updated: October 2015

Building Energy Code AdoptionList All

The State of Tennessee is home-ruled and allows local jurisdictions to adopt their own building codes. To learn more about the building energy codes in Tennessee, please visit the State Policy Database.


The City of Knoxville has adopted the 2012 IECC for commercial construction.


The City of Knoxville has adopted the 2012 IECC for residential construction.

Last Updated: January 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

Knoxville reported a budget of $2,468,000 for the building code department in 2013.We did not find information for the city's total spending on enforcement. Knoxville has not made third-party plan review or performance testing mandatory for code compliance, nor has it established either as a voluntary code compliance option. As upfront code support, Knoxville provides contractor training on building certifications and energy code updates.

Last Updated: October 2015

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Knoxville encourages but does not require buildings in any sector to benchmark or disclose their energy usage data. The MLS which serves the Knoxville area does not include fields for energy efficiency features.

Last Updated: October 2015

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings and Renewable EnergyList All

Building Energy Savings Goals

Knoxville has not established a goal to reduce energy intensity across private building stock.

Green Building Requirements

Green building certification is included in scoring criteria for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and PILOT, but there are no above code requirements for private building or buildings financed with public funds.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

Knoxville 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

Financing is available to qualifying residents that retrofit to energy certification standards.  TIF scoring is available for commercial buildings and favors buildings that achieve energy certification.

Last Updated: October 2015

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 6 out of 18 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

The Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB), a municipally-run utility, is the primary electric and natural gas utility serving the city of Knoxville. The municipal energy utilities implement Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)-funded energy efficiency programs which are outlined in the TVA Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). To learn more about the state-requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Tennessee page of the State Database.

KUB is also the municipal utility which provides drinking water, wastewater treatment, and stormwater management services to the City of Knoxville.

Last Updated: October 2015

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs and SavingsList All

KUB reported 19,717 MWh of net incremental savings in 2013. This accounts for 0.37% of retail sales. In 2013, KUB either did not spend or did not report spending on natural gas efficiency programs. KUB offers natural gas and electric efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers.

Last Updated: January 2017

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

The Knoxville Utilities Board does not participate in the Green Button. Currently, KUB does not automatically provide aggregated benchmarking data for Knoxville’s building managers through Portfolio Manager. KUB provides community-level aggregate energy usage data publically online for stakeholders to use in program planning and evaluating. At this point, The City of Knoxville does not yet advocate for policies requiring utilities to expand the availability and granularity of energy usage data.

Last Updated: October 2015

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

All Knoxville City facilities have water saving devices in place. KUB promotes national water efficiency programs on website as well as offers energy saving tips, but as of yet, there are no funded water efficiency programs in place. Knoxville has also not set a goal for water efficiency.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

KUB has no official target for energy efficiency through municipal water services operations.  KUB has installed energy retrofits such as a self-generation facility on the wastewater treatment plants.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

In Knoxville, stormwater is managed through form based codes, a complete streets policy, and tax increment finance language that drives new low-impact development and green infrastructure.  The city has captured two TDEC green infrastructure grants to install innovative stormwater measures. General capital funds are dedicated to these activities on a project by project basis.

Last Updated: October 2015

Score: 13.5 out of 28 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the city of Knoxville is Knoxville Area Transit. KAT provides the public transportation for the city and the broader metropolitan area, including bus and trolley service. The Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Knoxville, and many surrounding East Tennessee cities and towns. The Engineering Department is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network. As an incentive to promote location-efficient real estate development, Knoxville provides density bonuses in the form-based code districts.

Last updated: October 2015

Location Efficiency List All

Knoxville has not yet implemented location efficient zoning codes city wide, but there are form-based codes in the South Waterfront and Cumberland Corridor districts. Several projects have no minimum parking requirements for nonresidential use. Knoxville adopted its complete streets policy in 2009, through Resolution R-287-09. The adoption of the guidelines encourages the inclusion of complete streets principles in all road construction and maintenance projects.

Last updated: October 2015

Mode Shift List All

Transportation and Land Use Planning

Knoxville has not yet written or implemented a policy to encourage improved integration of transportation and land use planning such as a VMT reduction or mode share target.

Car and Bicycle Sharing

There is a car sharing program currently available to the residents and visitors of Knoxville, zipcar. A bike sharing program is in the planning stages. 

Transportation Demand Management Programs

Knoxville has not yet implemented any transportation demand management programs to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicle trips or trips during rush hour.

Last updated: October 2015

Transit List All

The KAT transit system that serves Knoxville received $34,086,340 in total funding in 2013. This funding level is $190.56 per resident in the service territory of the agency. This results in a ratio of per capita regional transit funding to per capita city highway and parking funding of 3.51 to 1.

The Transit Connectivity Index measures how many transit rides are available per week within walking distance from the average household. The City of Knoxville’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 6,589, putting it in a lower category (5,000 - 10,000) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: October 2015

Efficient VehiclesList All

Knoxville offers free public charging stations, but does not yet offer incentives for the construction of commercial or private EV charging infrastructure.

Knoxville has not yet established efficient driving rules, such as an anti-idling ordinance, for private vehicles. Knoxville actively participates in the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition, which works to reduce petroleum use in East-Tennessee transportation.

Last updated: October 2015

Freight System EfficiencyList All

There are four intermodal freight facilities within the City of Knoxville’s boundaries.  Knoxville’s share of regional freight traffic in 2011, normalized by population, is 1,047 ton-miles.  As a result there are 0.001 efficient intermodal facilities per thousand ton-miles of freight traffic, putting the city in the second lowest category for this metric (>0 to 0.499) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: October 2015