State-Level Influences on Community-Level Municipal Sustainable Energy Policies

By Jayce Farmer (University of Nevada)

Residential and small business consumers account for over 38% of the nation’s energy consumption. Therefore, policies emphasizing sustainability at the community-level become vital for urban communities. Yet, there is limited understanding regarding the roles state and local government relationships play in community focused sustainability.

States and their localities frequently work together within intergovernmental support systems to promote energy efficiency within urban communities. These endeavors often come in the form of legislative actions that provide policy direction or financial support for municipalities to promote and enforce state directives. However, much of our understanding regarding these relationships has been brought within the context of the development sectors, with little emphasis on community-level outcomes.  To understand the importance of state interventions for municipal commitments to community-level sustainability policies, we must place a special emphasis on programs designed to promote locally driven sustainability.

My article in Urban Affairs Review, entitled, “State-Level Influences on Community-Level Municipal Sustainable Energy Policies,” examines how state governments facilitate municipal sustainability programs designed to promote energy efficiency among local consumers. Specifically, it studies how state fiscal support and policy standards influence municipal choices to use incentivized energy efficiency policy tools. Using ICMA data, this study analyzes the policy choices of over 1,600 US cities to use tax incentives, direct grants and lending to promote community-level sustainable energy use. I find that state fiscal support for energy programs, influence municipal commitments to these incentivized initiatives.

When states provide stable and supportive systems of exchanges, municipalities are put in better positions to invest in policies that coincide with state endeavors. Larger proportions of state budgets dedicated towards state and local energy initiatives provide greater ease for municipalities in their implementation of community-level energy incentive programs. Sustained support for energy efficiency from the state-level can reduce pressure from scarcity issues at the local-level and enhance municipal capacity for sustainability efforts. The findings suggest that states can fiscally enhance local sustainability initiatives by providing direct monetary investments that help localities incentivize energy savings.

Frequently, state energy budgets incorporate portions of funding dedicated toward rate payer programs that promote efficient energy use. Funding of this nature can be used to provide direct assistance for efforts such as local demand-side energy efficiency and low-income energy assistance. The results of this study suggest that resources injected within state energy budgets can be linked to energy initiatives designed to address community-level concerns. If state governments provide enabling resources that support sustainability initiatives, local officials will have the ability to enhance their efforts for taxpayer driven programs. A framework based upon a stable and supportive system of state and local government exchanges can minimize local costs as cities seek to commit to sustainable energy outcomes that provide community-level benefits. 

Read the UAR article here.

Photo by Andreas Gücklhorn on Unsplash

Author Biography

Jayce Farmer is an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy and Leadership at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His research focuses on local governance, local public finances and urban sustainability policy.