State and Local Policy Database

Providence

City Scorecard Rank

23

Providence, RI

44.00Scored out of 100Updated 10/2020
Local Government Score:
7 out of 10 points
Local Government Climate and Energy Goals List All

The Sustainable Providence Plan establishes climate and energy goals for the City of Providence’s municipal operations. These goals were updated with Executive Order 2016-3.

Climate Mitigation Goal

The update to the Sustainable Providence Plan established a citywide goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. To meet this goal, Providence must reduce per capita emissions by 2.94% annually. The city is not on track to meet its climate mitigation goal.

Energy Reduction Goal

Executive Order 2016-3 establishes a goal of carbon neutrality community-wide by 2050. The Sustainable Providence Plan also includes a goal to reduce municipal energy use by 30% below 2010 levels by 2030. The city releases information regarding progress towards this goal through an open data portal and municipal energy reports. Municipal energy data is also released through an online sustainability dashboard. Based on ACEEE’s analysis of past years emissions data, ACEEE projects the city will not achieve its near-term GHG emissions reduction goal for municipal operations.

Renewable Energy Goal

Providence aims to use 100% renewable electricity for municipal operations by 2030, 100% renewable thermal by 2040, and 100% electric transportation by 2040. 

Last updated: March 2020

Procurement and Construction List All

Fleet Policies and Composition

In accordance with the City Code (Chapter II, Article I, Sec. 2-12), when the city purchases motor vehicles for its municipal operations, each vehicle purchased must be the most fuel-efficient model available that will fulfill the intended municipal function. In 2019, the city included funding in its Master Lease to procure new EVs and install charging infrastructure. In early 2020, the City leveraged incentives and successfully installed six EV charging stations for municipal and public use at the public safety garage. We were unable to determine the composition of Providence’s fleet. 

Public Lighting

The City has not adopted controls provisions of the Model Lighting Ordinance for outdoor and street lighting. Currently, the City’s new LED streetlighting and controls management company remotely dims about half of the City’s streetlighting by 40% late night to early morning. New recent guidelines enacted by the RI Public Utilities Commission (RIPUC) will allow the City to expand that to 50% dimming for six hours (11pm-5am). All streetlights have photo sensors, so they only operate from dawn to dusk. The City of Providence purchased its roadway lighting in February 2016 from the Utility, National Grid and hired a third party to retrofit the entire system, including floodlighting, to LED technology, and incorporate open-portal controls for dimming.

Onsite renewable systems

Providence had installed 4.75 MW of solar capacity on city facilities.

Inclusive procurement

The City has Minority Business Enterprise participation policy that sets a goal of 20% WMBE participation. This applies to energy efficiency and renewable projects.

Last updated: March 2020

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking 

The City of Providence has been benchmarking and monitoring its energy consumption as part of its fiscal and environmental agenda since 2010. The FY2019 Municipal Energy Report will mark the fifth report released by the Office of Sustainability. 100% of Providence’s municipal building square footage is regularly benchmarked using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The City has partnered with the Department of Energy, NBI, Maalka, and EcoEdge to develop a Strategic Energy Plan. The City is currently working to integrate these efforts with the City's five-year Capital Improvement Plan and the School Improvement Plan. 

Comprehensive Retrofit Strategies

A number of comprehensive whole-building studies have been completed on individual buildings, and as part of broader studies such as the Rhode Island Department of Education’s Schoolhouse Energy Report Card for which RIDE also provided detailed building energy strategies to every municipality for every school building in their district. In 2016, the City completed whole-building-approach energy efficiency projects at five City buildings using $1.2 million in funding from the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB), a quasi-State agency developed to help Rhode Island municipalities address their goals for energy efficiency. The project, covering 71,240 square feet of building space, will reduce energy consumption in the five buildings by greater than 40%. Between FY 2018 and FY 2019, 14 buildings increased their Energy Star scores. The average Energy Star scores of all City schools combined has risen 14.4% since FY 2014, largely due to energy efficiency upgrades and HVAC control retro-commissioning completed in the buildings.

Public Workforce Commuting

Providence allows teleworking for city employees. 

Last updated: July 2020

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 6 out of 15 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The City of Providence adopted the Climate Justice Plan in 2019, following up on the Sustainable Providence plan, initially released in 2014 and updated in 2016. The Climate Justice Plan sets sector-specific targets to meet its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and aims to center those most impacted by the climate crisis in the decision-making process.

Last updated: July 2020

Community-Wide Climate Mitigation and Energy GoalsList All

Climate Mitigation Goal

With Executive Order 2016-3, Providence has adopted a goal to become carbon-neutral by 2050. Based on community-wide greenhouse gas emissions inventories, Providence is reducing emissions by about 1% annually on average. Based on ACEEE’s analysis of past years emissions data, ACEEE projects the city will not achieve its near-term community-wide GHG emissions reduction goal. 

The Climate Justice Plan also sets specific community-wide targets for electrification of heating in buildings (85% of commercial heating and 90% of residential heating by 2050). 

Energy Reduction Goal

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

Renewable Energy Goal

The Climate Justice Plan established goals of 50% carbon-free electricity by 2035 and 100% by 2050. 

Energy Data Reporting

The city uploads community-wide energy data for the residential and commercial sectors onto an online sustainability dashboard.

This section applies only to community-wide energy data reporting. For information on data reporting due to building energy benchmarking and disclosure policies, click on the Buildings tab.

Last updated: September 2020

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

Equitable Community Outreach

The Racial and Environmental Justice Committee (REJC), comprised of community members of color, is now leading Providence’s climate planning engagement process. The Committee has trained ten community members in energy democracy and energy systems to better inform the city’s climate strategy. The ten community members have conducted interviews within their communities to better understand how energy impacts lives and communities.

The City is also working with the REJC to launch two Green Justice Zones to deepen collaboration with Providence’s frontline communities. The Green Justice Zones will help the City prioritize investments that align with the Climate Justice Plan in the two neighborhoods in Providence that are most burdened by environmental impacts. 

Equitable decision-making

Providence aided in the creation of a Racial and Environmental Justice Committee (REJC), which is entirely comprised of community members of color. The REJC advised the Office of Sustainability on how to better incorporate equity into its work. REJC and the City continue to share power with frontline communities in a collaborative governance model. 

Accountability to Equity

The Climate Justice Plan includes seven key climate equity objectives and over fifty strategies that seek to create an equitable, low-carbon city. The plan also identifies changes that are needed in the city's governing structure, economic systems, and health of their communities to ensure an equitable transition from fossil fuels. The plan includes specific goals for improving low-carbon transit options for frontline communities and reducing diesel truck traffic in those communities.

The Racial and Environmental Justice Committee created the Principles and Values for a Racially Equitable and Just Providence framework. The city evaluates all climate strategy recommendations through this lens.

Last updated: July 2020

Clean Distributed Energy SystemsList All

We could not verify if the city has adopted a formal policy, rule, or agreement that supports the creation of clean distributed energy systems.

Last updated: March 2020

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

UHI Mitigation Goal

Sustainable Providence establishes the city’s goal to increase Providence’s tree canopy from 23% to 30% and places priority on planting trees in low canopy neighborhoods. The City is tracking progress via the Dashboard.

UHI Policies and Programs

The city has adopted a development incentives policy that awards building height bonuses in the downtown area to real estate developers that preserve open space. The city has also adopted a private tree protection ordinance for trees measuring 32-inches or more at diameter at breast height. The city is working to establish an Urban Forest Master Plan.

Last updated: July 2020

Buildings Policies
Score: 3.5 out of 30 points
Buildings Summary List All

The City of Providence enforces the state’s energy codes. The city requires plan reviews to verify energy code compliance. Providence has not adopted a benchmarking and disclosure ordinance. The city offers access to property assessed clean energy financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Last Updated: September 2020

Building Energy Code AdoptionList All

Overview

The State of Rhode Island requires local jurisdictions to comply with the SBC-8 State Energy Conservation Code. The Conservation Code requires residential and commercial developments adhere to the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). In 2018, the state adopted a voluntary stretch code that individual projects and developments may adopt. The state bars cities from adopting the stretch code as its standard building code.

Commercial

Commercial properties must comply with the State Energy Conservation Code. The city’s zEPI score for their commercial energy code is 60.0. The city does not advocate the state to adopt more stringent commercial energy codes.

Residential

Residential properties must comply with the State Energy Conservation Code. The city’s zEPI score for their residential energy code is 65.2. The city does not advocate the state to adopt more stringent residential energy codes.

Solar- and EV-ready

The city has not passed an ordinance mandating new construction be solar- and/or EV-ready. Providence allows solar energy use in all zones.

Low-energy use requirements

Providence requires new municipal buildings to achieve LEED standards. 

Last Updated: September 2020

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

The city does not staff any full time employees solely dedicated to energy code enforcement. The city uses plan reviews to ensure code compliance, but does not use site inspections nor performance testing.  In 2019, the City completed a code compliance study which identified a compliance rate of 77% for commercial properties and 89% for residential. The study also provided recommendations for improvement, which the City is working towards implementing. For example, one of the recommendations was to hold a code enforcement training for inspectors.

Last Updated: September 2020

Policies Targeting Existing BuildingsList All

Incentives

The city offers commercial property owners access to property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Residential property owners may also access PACE financing for renewable energy installations only.

Last Updated: September 2020

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Workforce DevelopmentList All

The city offered a Building Operator Certification (BOC) Level I training in partnership with National Grid and Northwest Energy Efficiency Council (NEEC). The course included eight full days of classroom training over several months. The city also offered Green Professional Building Skills (GPRO) training in partnership with the Urban Green Council, the U.S. Green Building Council’s New York City affiliate. This training was offered for free. 

The Climate Justice Plan released in 2019 prioritizes creating workforce development programs that support a just transition away from fossil fuels. This should include training and education in industries such as energy efficiency and clean energy, including job training for frontline community members to provide education and implementation of energy efficiency and electrification services.

Last Updated: September 2020

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

The Narragansett Electric Company, an investor-owned utility (IOU) and subsidiary to National Grid, is the primary electric and natural gas utility serving the City of Providence. Rhode Island’s Comprehensive Energy Conservation, Efficiency and Affordability Act of 2006 requires utilities to acquire all cost-effective energy efficiency. The act also establishes requirements for strategic long-term planning and purchasing of least-cost supply and demand resources, and three-year energy saving targets. To learn more about the state requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the Rhode Island page of the State Database.

In 2019, the Providence City Council voted to authorize the developed and implementation of a community choice aggregation (CCA) plan to allow the residents of Providence to have more control over their electric bills. The City solicited bids in late 2019 and in early 2020 awarded a contract for a consultant to assist the City in the creation and operation of an aggregation plan and CCA program.

The Providence Water Supply Board provides drinking water services to the City of Providence.

Last Updated: May 2020

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs and SavingsList All

In 2018, Narragansett Electric reported 206,209 MWh in net incremental savings, representing 2.75% of retail sales. In 2018, Narragansett Electric spent $87,612,000 on energy efficiency programs, which represents 8.36% of its retail revenue.

In 2018, Narragansett Electric reported savings of 4.97 MMtherms from natural gas efficiency programs, representing 1.89% of its retail sales. In 2018, Narragansett Electric spent $27,230,600 on energy efficiency, which equates to $111.65 per residential customer. These savings cover the entire Rhode Island service territory, not just Providence.

Narragansett Electric offers both natural gas and electric efficiency incentives to residential and commercial customers.

The City has various “partnerships” with Narragansett Electric, its electric and natural gas utility, that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy in both the public and private sectors, including the City’s voluntary energy challenge program called RePowerPVD. Narragansett Electric has been providing automated energy usage data as well as energy benchmarking assistance to program participants at request. The City is a member of the RI Energy Efficiency Collaborative to inform the development, implementation, and evaluation of National Grid’s energy efficiency plans.

Last Updated: March 2020

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs

Narragansett Electric offers the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to qualified low-income residential customers. The program offers a home energy assessment, appliance replacement, insulation, air and duct sealing, heating equipment, domestic hot water systems, and lighting. Customers who qualify for bill assistance are eligible to receive all services and equipment upgrades. The program is delivered by local community action agencies with oversight provided by a lead industry partner. The program also collaborates with the federally funded Weatherization Assistance Program, offering joint services to qualified customers. Further, the Company offers an Income Eligible Multifamily program for low-income residential customers who reside in a multi-unit building. The program offers a no-cost comprehensive energy assessment along with no-cost measures such as lighting, insulation, air sealing and mechanical upgrades. The utility partners with the seven local Community Action Agencies to administer the program. National Grid supports their local presence as they serve as the initial, and primary, interface for income-eligible customers. National Grid also recently established a Customer Advocate Support program to help customers manage their energy bills and identify assistance solutions. Customer Assistance Expos and community tabling events aim to connect customers to their local advocates.

In 2018, according to Narragansett Electric, it achieved 6,816 MWh and 0.37 MMtherms in energy savings, while spending $12,463,500 and $6,644,700 on its electric and natural gas low-income programs, respectively. Narragansett Electric served 7,725 electric and 3,625 natural gas low-income customers.

Multifamily Programs

Narragansett Electric offers a multifamily program that provides comprehensive energy services to Residential Market Rate, Income Eligible and Commercial and Industrial Gas multifamily customers including energy assessments, incentives for heating and domestic hot water systems, cooling equipment, lighting, and appliances. The program establishes a primary multifamily point of contact to manage and coordinate services offered through their existing energy efficiency programs. The utility also launched a new landlord weatherization program that covers 100% of the cost of weatherizing 1-4 unit builds.

In 2018, according to Narragansett Electric, it achieved 5,314 MWh and 0.49 MMtherms in energy savings, while spending $5,146,000 and $4,271,00 on its electric and natural multifamily programs, respectively. Narragansett served 6,290 electric and 5,775 natural gas multifamily customers.

Last Updated: May 2020

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

Narragansett Electric provides building owners support to use the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool. The City of Providence has been working closely with the state and Narragansett Electric to get building energy data available to ratepayers.

Last Updated: March 2020

Renewable Energy Efforts of Energy UtilitiesList All

Renewable Energy Incentives

In 2018, Narragansett Electric did not provide renewable energy incentives for the construction of new distributed solar or wind systems.

City-Led Efforts to Decarbonize the Electric Grid

The city of Providence actively engages with the state to support key policies related to energy efficiency and renewable energy. For example, the City submitted written testimony in support of House bill 5536, which removes unnecessary barriers to allow municipalities to choose the electricity supplier for its residents and businesses to enable community choice aggregation. The City also supported legislation that would expand net metering options to nonprofits, including hospitals and universities.

In 2019, the Providence City Council voted to authorize the Mayor and the City’s Office of Sustainability to develop and implement an aggregation plan to allow the residents of Providence to have more control over their electric bills. Under Rhode Island state law, CCA programs provide the opportunity to bring the benefits of competitive choice of electric supplier, longer-term price stability and more renewable energy options to the residents and businesses of the City of Providence and other municipalities in Rhode Island. The City Council is in full support of this program and the potential monetary and environmental benefits to our community. The City solicited bids in late 2019 and in early 2020 awarded a contract for a consultant to assist the City in the creation and operation of an aggregation plan and CCA program.

Last Updated: May 2020

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

City-wide water efficiency and goals

Although Providence’s water and energy utilities do not offer joint energy and water efficiency programs, the Providence Water Supply Board offers water efficiency kits for residential customers and efficiency audits for commercial and industrial customers.

In accordance with R.I. General Laws §46-15.3-5.1 (c) and §46-15.8-5, the Water Supply Board established a residential average annual water use target of 65 gallons per capita per day.

Water plant efficiency and self-generation

The City of Providence has not yet established a target for energy efficiency through municipal water services operations. However, in October 2017, the water utility received grant and rebate money that it used to implement several energy efficient measures at its plant. As a result of its efforts, the COF project received a “Lead by Example Award” from the RI Office of Energy Resources in recognition of significant contributions toward comprehensive clean energy measures that are helping to reduce energy burdens and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The agency installed a rooftop solar array, which is expected to offset about 60% of its annual electric consumption. It installed energy efficient LED lighting and lighting controls throughout its facility, purchased three zero-emissions Chevy Bolts, and installed two electric vehicle charging stations on its property. The COF project also installed green infrastructure to mitigate stormwater run-off to nearby Mashapaug Pond. PW has a goal of using 100% renewable energy by the end of 2019.

The wastewater treatment plant currently self-generates some energy through biogas CHP and is well on its way to being 100% renewable by 2020 via biogas CHP, wind, and solar.

Last Updated: June 2020

Transportation
Score: 16 out of 30 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving Providence is the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority (RIPTA). RIPTA provides the public transportation throughout the State of Rhode Island. The State Planning Council is in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning throughout the state. Providence’s Department of Public Works is charged with managing the city’s transportation network. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) designs, constructs, and maintains the state's surface transportation system.

Last updated: May 2020

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

Sustainable Transportation Plan

Sustainable transportation is addressed in the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Providence’s Sustainability plan contains a chapter dedicated to promoting sustainable transportation. VMT is tracked as a key metric, but there are no targets or goals in place. As the city develops their climate action plan to become a carbon neutral city by 2050, targets for reducing VMT will be in included.

VMT/GHG Targets and Stringency

Providence’s VMT targets are currently under development. The city proposed target includes a 11% reduction in VMT by 2030 and a 20% reduction in VMT by 2050.

Progress Achieved Toward VMT/GHG Targets

Providence does not track progress towards a VMT/GHG target.

Last Updated: May 2019

Location Efficiency List All

Location Efficient Zoning Codes

The Providence Zoning Ordinance update features new transit-oriented development zones to encourage more intensive development on portions of major transit routes.

Residential Parking Policies

The city has no parking minimums downtown, and parking maximums exist in designated transit-oriented development areas.

Location Efficiency Incentives and Disclosure

The City has adopted a development incentives policy that awards building height bonuses in the downtown area to real estate developers.

Last Updated: March 2019

Mode Shift List All

Mode Shift Targets

Providence does not have a mode shift target in place for the transportation sector.

Progress Achieved Toward Mode Shift Targets

Providence does not track progress towards their mode shift target.

Complete Streets

Providence’s complete streets policy scored an 21.2 out of 100 according to the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Car Sharing

The city has an agreement with Zip Car to allow them to use City-owned on-street parking spots.

Bike Sharing

The city has 221.74 docked bike share bikes per 100,000 people.

Last Updated: May 2019

Transit List All

Transportation Funding

Providence spends an average of $32.80 per capita on transit.

Access to Transit Services

The city has an All Transit Performance score of 7.5 out of 10.

Last Updated: March 2019

Efficient VehiclesList All

Vehicle Purchase Incentives

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

Vehicle Infrastructure Incentives

Providence does not currently offer incentives for the installing of EV charging infrastructure.

EV Charging Locations

Providence has 9.98 publicly available EV charging locations per 100,000 people.

Renewable Charging Incentives

Providence does not have any incentives for renewable EV charging infrastructure installation.

Last Updated: March 2019

Freight System EfficiencyList All

Providence 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

Providence does not have any requirements or incentives in place to encourage the development or preservation of affordable housing in transit-served areas.

Connecting Existing Affordable Housing Stock to Efficient Transportation Options

Providence does not provide any subsidies for efficient transportation options to low-income residents.

Low-Income Access to High Quality Transit

60.9% of low-income households (those that earn less than $50k annually) are located near high-quality, all-day transit in Providence.     

Last Updated: April 2019