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Cities-LEAP Analysis Reveals Findings on the Most Efficient and Least Polluting Cities in the U.S.

September 12, 2016 by Megan Day

Cities need timely, comprehensive, localized energy data to make informed energy decisions. More often than not that data is simply unavailable, until now.  The Department of Energy’s Cities Leading through Energy Analysis and Planning (Cities-LEAP) project recently developed a city energy profile for every U.S. city, including estimates of:

  • electricity and natural gas consumption and expenditures by sector,
  • on-road vehicle fuel use,
  • vehicle miles traveled,
  • photovoltaic (PV) generation potential on small buildings,
  • building stock characterization, and
  • the top five energy consuming industries in each city.

In addition, the profiles provide actual data on the fuel types, including alternative fuels and fuel economy, of vehicles registered in each of the 23,400 cities analyzed. The electricity, natural gas, and fuel consumption estimates are summarized in an abbreviated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions table to help cities understand their relative emissions sources (see Figure 1 for an example).


Figure 1. Annual Energy GHG Emissions for Pierre, South Dakota. Source: EERE, State and Local Energy Data

This wealth of new data has unprecedented potential to illustrate the complexities of city energy use and the most strategic city pathways toward a clean energy future. Here are some preliminary findings for cities with populations of 2,000 and above where comprehensive data was available.

Residential Buildings

  • The 50 cities with the lowest per capita residential GHG emissions (from estimated electricity and natural gas consumption) are all in California or New York.


  • California has 30 cities among the 50 U.S. cities with the lowest per capita on-road vehicle emissions, followed by Texas with six, and Minnesota and Utah with four each.
  • The highest average fuel economy for vehicles registered (as of 2014) within a city was 27.7 mpg and 27.6 in Albany (north of Berkeley) and Berkeley, California respectively.
  • The cities with the most fuel efficient cars are concentrated in California, Maryland, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Most cities had an average fuel economy of 21-22 mpg and cities with the least fuel efficient cars (averaging in the 16-18 mpg range) are concentrated in states like Alaska, Arkansas, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota.
  • Portola Valley, Piedmont, Mill Valley, Santa Monica, and Berkeley, California have the highest percentage of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).
  • Cities in Nebraska and Idaho and Washington, DC have the lowest average GHG per capita from on-road vehicle fuel use.


  • Texas has three cities among the top ten cities nation-wide for rooftop PV generation potential on small buildings (Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas) (See Figure 2).

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Cities in Oregon, Delaware, and California have the lowest average GHG emissions per capita for the combined emissions from vehicle fuel use and the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.
  • Cities in Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma have the highest average per capita emissions.

There are a large number of factors that influence these rankings. Dig in to the methodologies and detailed data on the State and Local Energy Data site to learn more.

PV potential-Houston,TX-web

Figure 2. Small building PV rooftop potential for Houston, Texas. Source: EERE, State and Local Energy Data

Cities can use Cities-LEAP data and analysis to be more strategic in goal setting, to target energy actions toward particular sectors or types of buildings, to identify leading or lagging cities and sectors within cities, to identify best practices and opportunities ripe for intervention, and overall, to plan for transformation to a clean energy future. Find detailed data on your city from nine new data sets on the State and Local Energy Data site and new Cities-LEAP analysis on the national impact of city-level energy actions on the Cities-LEAP site.