Toolkit Helps Tallahassee Ready for Clean Energy Implementation

Feb. 8, 2023 | By Jeffrey Wolf | Contact media relations

While it makes a big splash when large communities like Los Angeles and New York embrace the clean energy transition, success depends on communities of all sizes mapping a pathway to their goals along with access to necessary resources.

The city of Tallahassee, Florida, has a long history of environmental stewardship and, in 2019, set a goal to achieve 100% net clean, renewable energy by 2050. To assist in its planning efforts, the city sought insights from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

“As a municipal utility, we began the clean energy journey decades ago by offering energy-efficiency incentives and free energy audits to our customers,” said Michael Ohlsen, clean energy and resource planning manager for the city of Tallahassee’s electric and gas utility. “Transforming our utility to clean energy, as well as electrifying our transportation sector, will expand this commitment exponentially and requires a thoughtful, concerted approach.”

A bus on the street of Tallahassee that says I'm leading the charge and #greenleader
The city of Tallahassee wants to have all buses powered by clean energy by 2035. Photo from the city of Tallahassee

The city’s clean energy resolution included interim goals of getting all municipal buildings, light-duty vehicles, and buses to be powered by clean energy by 2035. To date, all municipal buildings are covered by solar energy, a third of its bus fleet is electric, and more than 15% of its light duty fleet is electric. With these goals on track, city planners turned their attention to mapping a pathway forward for the rest of the community.

NREL helped Tallahassee create a technical and economic feasibility plan to put the city on a pathway to clean energy. During that time, NREL used the State and Local Planning for Energy (SLOPE) Platform and the Low-Income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) tools to create data visualizations to help Tallahassee create plans to move forward.

NREL created a toolkit specifically to help Florida communities, now available on

“The new toolkit takes a city or energy planner’s approach to outlining the resources needed for each step of implementing a clean energy project,” NREL Group Manager Katie Richardson said. “From convening stakeholders to iterating on successes, the toolkit can help local governments, utilities, planners, developers, funders, advocacy groups, and community members achieve their energy goals.”

The toolkit outlines resources at every planning stage for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation. It also contains a searchable database that may be relevant to many communities across the United States, not just Florida.

“This toolkit is really going to be useful in letting cities plan their own path to 100%,” said Brooke Alexander, organizing manager for clean energy with Sierra Club Florida. “I would describe it as a one-stop shop to find everything you need to make progress toward your community’s clean energy goals.”

In 2022, NREL worked with both Tallahassee and Sarasota, looking at different aspects of the clean energy planning process, and shared the full potential of SLOPE and other NREL-based tools.

“Having extra tools available assisted us in displaying complex information in an approachable way. This helped facilitate constructive conversations with our citizens,” Ohlsen said. “It also helped us understand what the data was saying and how it informs the planning process.”

The city worked to ensure residents and stakeholders had input on the clean energy planning process. The city conducted three rounds of public engagement between 2020 and 2022 to seek insights and guidance at each stage of the planning process and is currently at the stage of developing policy and program recommendations.

NREL often delivers technical assistance to communities around the country, such as Louisville, Kentucky, and the highly publicized LA100 study with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, to provide guidance on meeting clean energy goals.

As Tallahassee nears the end of its planning process, the focus turns to community implementation, and that has Ohlsen excited.

“In addition to NREL’s analysis, we just finished an in-depth technical study of our electric system and will use the combined findings along with community input to identify specific clean energy targets for implementation over the next five to 10 years,” he said. “I’m excited to be pivoting from planning as our core activity to the next stage of implementation. There will certainly be challenges ahead, but I’m confident the tools and analysis that got us this far will continue to be a steady guide.”

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