State and Local Policy Database


City Scorecard Rank


Knoxville, TN

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

The City of Knoxville Energy and Sustainability Initiative includes both municipal and community climate action initiatives.

Climate Mitigation Goal

The Energy and Sustainability Initiative states a goal to reduce municipal emissions 20% below 2005 levels by 2020. To meet this goal, the city must reduce per capita emissions by 1.1% annually. Knoxville is not on track to meet its goal.

Energy Reduction Goal

The city participates in the Better Buildings Challenge to reduce energy use 20% below 2010 levels by 2022.

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

Knoxville’s Green Fleet Policy requires the City to consider fuel efficiency when purchasing new vehicles. The Green Fleet Policy was developed in 2011. Knoxville’s fleet is composed of 0.1% efficient vehicles and included hybrid vehicles. 

Public Lighting

Knoxville has not adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. The City is currently retrofitting all 29,500+ streetlights to LED. Approximately 60% have been converted as of April 2019. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Green Building Requirements

Knoxville’s building construction policy requires all new municipal buildings to meet ENERGY STAR or LEED certification.

Last updated: June 2019

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting 

Knoxville benchmarks all municipal buildings using a combination of B3 Benchmarking platform and ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The City does not disclose individual building performance publicly, but does share overall building performance as a part of the Better Buildings Challenge.

Public Workforce Commuting

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

Last updated: March 2019

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 2.5 out of 16 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The City of Knoxville developed the Energy and Sustainability Work Plan to guide its community-wide sustainability initiatives.

Last updated: June 2019

Community-Wide Climate Mitigation and Energy GoalsList All

Climate Mitigation Goal

The city’s Energy and Sustainability Work Plan set a goal to reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 2005 levels by 2020. ACEEE does not project the city will achieve its community-wide GHG emissions reduction goal. 

The city has released three greenhouse gas inventories for the years 2009, 2014, and 2017. The city also discloses community-wide emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Energy Reduction Goal

The city does not have a community-wide energy reduction goal.

Renewable Energy Goal

The city does not have a community-wide renewable energy goal.

Energy Data Reporting

The city has included some community energy data in its greenhouse gas inventories from 2009, 2014, and 2017.

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

Through the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Green Power Providers Program, the city has installed 90 kW and 50 kW systems and maintains two other solar systems.

Last updated: June 2019

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

The city has specific zones that require the use of low-impact development strategies, such as permeable pavement and cool roofs.

Last updated: June 2019

Buildings Policies
Score: 7.5 out of 30 points
Buildings Summary List All

The City of Knoxville has authority to adopt building energy codes. The city offers upfront support to building owners and developers. The city does not have a benchmarking and disclosure policy. Knoxville offers residential and commercial property owners incentives for energy efficiency retrofits.

Last updated: March 2019

Building Energy Code AdoptionList All


As the state of Tennessee allows cities to adopt home-rule charters, the City of Knoxville holds jurisdiction over its city’s building energy code. The city adopted the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) by ordinance for both commercial and residential properties. To learn more about Tennessee’s building energy code requirements, please visit the State Policy Database.


Commercial properties must adhere to the 2018 IECC. The city’s zEPI score for their commercial energy code is 51.6.


Residential properties must adhere to the 2018 IECC. The city’s zEPI score for their residential energy code is 66.4.

Solar- and EV-ready

The city has not adopted a formal policy mandating new construction be solar- and/or EV- ready.

Last updated: June 2019

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

The city does not staff any full time employees solely dedicated to energy code enforcement. The city has not made plan reviews, site inspections, nor performance testing mandatory for energy code compliance. The city offers upfront support through pre-submittal conferences.

Last updated: March 2019

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Commercial and multifamily

Knoxville does not have a benchmarking, rating, and disclosure policy for commercial and/or multifamily properties.


The city has not adopted a single-family benchmarking and disclosure policy.

Last updated: March 2019

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings and Renewable EnergyList All

Knoxville offers three incentives for energy efficiency upgrades.

Residential and commercial property owners may access tax increment financing for retrofits if they qualify. The city favors projects that achieve an energy-savings certification. The city's Community Development Department offers financial assistance for residential improvements through the Blighted Properties Redevelopment Program. The department requires projects that receive funding from the program to achieve ENERGY STAR standards. 

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: May 2019

Required Energy ActionsList All

Knoxville 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 Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee offers training for contractors that work to install energy saving measures on properties as part of its Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover program.

Last updated: March 2019

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 3.5 out of 15 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

The Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB), a municipally-owned utility (MOU), is the primary electric and natural gas utility for the City of Knoxville. The Tennessee Regulatory Authority sets the rates and services standards of the investor-owned natural gas, electric, and water utilities. 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.

The Knoxville Utilities Board also provides the City of Knoxville with drinking water services and wastewater treatment, while the City provides stormwater management.

Last Updated: May 2019

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs and SavingsList All

In 2017, according to KUB and TVA, KUB achieved 10,590 MWh of net electric savings at the meter, which represents 0.20% of its retail sales. In 2017, KUB did not report savings on natural gas efficiency programs. These savings figures cover the utility’s entire service jurisdiction, not just Knoxville. KUB offers electric and natural gas efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and business customers.

TVA and the City of Knoxville partnered to provide low income weatherization from 2015-2017 through the Extreme Energy Makeover. In 2017, 444 homes were upgraded with a savings of 2,061 MWh savings. Participants were qualified using 80% AMI income limits.

Last Updated: March 2019

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs

In 2015, KUB implemented Round It Up, which allows KUB customers to voluntarily participate in having their bills rounded up to the next dollar. KUB sends 100 percent of the customer contributions to the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC), who administers a weatherization assistance program. Additionally, KUB and other partners received a $15 million grant from TVA in 2015 for the Knoxville Extreme Energy Makeover (KEEM). With KEEM, 1,278 homes were weatherized for low-income customers in two years. As part of the City of Knoxville’s Smarter Cities Partnership, KUB works closely with community leaders and partners including City of Knoxville, CAC, TVA, Alliance to Save Energy, Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development (SEEED) and others to develop, advertise, and implement the low-income weatherization assistance programs. The Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee also braids other funds from multiple sources to provide weatherization assistance along with health and safety improvements.  

In 2018, TVA provided additional funding for the Home Uplift pilot program in support of Round It Up. With $1 million of funding over two years, Home Uplift will double the number of homes that can be weatherized through the Round It Up program. TVA, KUB and other partners are currently working to acquire other sources of funding for Home Uplift. Altogether, more than $18 million of funding for low-income weatherization assistnace has been provided through these partnerships since 2015. In 2017, according to KUB and TVA, KUB achieved 1,878 MWh in energy savings from its low-income programs, while serving 4,26 customers.

Multifamily Programs

At this time, KUB does not offer energy efficiency programs targeted at multifamily properties.

Last Updated: March 2019

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

KUB does not provide building managers with automated benchmarking data through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager for multitenant commercial or multifamily buildings. At this time, the City of Knoxville does not advocate for better access to utility data for ratepayers or the establishment of data-sharing agreements between the city and its utilities.

Last Updated: March 2019

Renewable Energy Efforts of Energy UtilitiesList All

Renewable Energy Incentives

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

City-Led Efforts to Decarbonize the Electric Grid

In 2018, TVA produced 13% of its total generation from renewable sources.

Last Updated: March 2019

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

City-wide water efficiency and goals

The City has recently partnered with KUB to integrate water efficiency into its ongoing energy efficiency education efforts. At this point, the City of Knoxville has not established a water savings target or goal.

Water plant efficiency and self-generation

KUB has made significant investments improve energy efficiency. Plant efficiency has been optimized with installation of efficient equipment (e.g., variable frequency drives) and operational adjustments. KUB has had multiple energy assessments of its plants conducted by third parties. One such assessment was conducted by the State of Tennessee in 2015, and the results noted KUB’s plants are extremely efficient and there is little more that can be done to improve efficiency. Still, KUB strives for efficiency in its water and wastewater operations, and recent efforts include:

  • Installation of more than 550 LED lights, with an annual savings of nearly 470,000 kWh annually.
  • Participation in TVA’s Demand Response program to alleviate strain on the electric grid during periods of peak demand.
  • Improvement to the aeration system at KUB’s largest wastewater treatment plant, Kuwahee, including installation of six dissolved oxygen probes and three new sensors to optimize efficiency.
  • Implementation of an advanced technology solution to improve water loss from KUB’s water distribution system. KUB recently divided its water system into 44 district metered areas with over 100 sensors that capture flow and pressure data every five minutes. KUB implemented TaKaDu, a web-based data analytics software, to analyze the data and identify operational irregularities. These improvements are helping KUB identify and repair leaks more quickly.

In addition to water and energy conservation, KUB is a Platinum-level participant in the National Biosolids Partnership, through which all of the organic solids (approx. 33,000 wet tons per year) from the wastewater treatment process are certified as fertilizer by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and applied to regional farmlands at no cost to the farmers. An interdisciplinary team within KUB remains active in exploring additional efficiency opportunities. Implementation of data analytics software is scheduled to support efficiency efforts.

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

Last Updated: May 2019

Score: 10 out of 30 points
Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

Sustainable Transportation Plan

The City of Knoxville addresses transportation efficiency in its Energy and Sustainability Work Plan.

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: May 2019

Location Efficiency List All

Location Efficient Zoning Codes

The City has two form-based code districts: the South Waterfront and Cumberland Avenue.

Residential Parking Policies

The City's central business district has no off street parking requirements.

Location Efficiency Incentives and Disclosure

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

Last Updated: May 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

Knoxville adopted its complete streets policy in 2014 through Ordinance No. O-204-2014.

Car Sharing

Sec 17-308 of Knoxville’s Parking Ordinance allows for the signing of car-sharing vehicles dedicated parking.

Bike Sharing

Pace Bikeshare operates a dockless system in Knoxville. Kiosks and stations are provided and maintained for customer convenience, but users are free to depart their ride at any bike rack.

Last Updated: May 2019

Transit List All

Transportation Funding

Knoxville spends $77.30 per capita on transit funding.

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 Knoxville’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 4.1, putting it in the lowest category (0-4.99) available in the City Scorecard.

Last Updated: May 2019

Efficient VehiclesList All

Vehicle Purchase Incentives

At this time, Knoxville 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 44 charging stations available for public use.

Renewable Charging Incentives

At this time, the City of Knoxville 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

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

Last Updated: March 2019

Clean, Efficient Transportation for Low-Income CommunitiesList All

Affordable New TOD Housing Policy

The City of Knoxville has established an affordable rental development fund in the initial amount of $2 million for the creation of new affordable and workforce rental housing. This fund is in response to the need for standard rental units that are affordable to low- and moderate-income renters. Knoxville has lost hundreds of affordable units over the last few years while at the same time market rents have been steadily climbing. In an effort to increase the supply and long-term availability of rental housing options for persons with modest incomes, this fund has been created to incentivize the development of quality affordable rental housing. Proximity to public transportation is one of the funding priorities.

Connecting Existing Affordable Housing Stock to Efficient Transportation Options

Knoxville does not currently provide rebates or incentives to low-income residents for efficient transportation options.

Low-Income Access to High Quality Transit

At this time, the City of Knoxville does not provide low-income households with access to high-quality transit.

Last Updated: April 2019