Climate and Energy Resources for State, Local and Tribal Governments

Lead by Example in Government Operations

Related Resources

States lead by example (LBE) by implementing clean energy and climate change programs within their own buildings and operations. State governments can achieve substantial energy cost savings across their facilities, operations, and fleets with LBE programs. States also can demonstrate energy and environmental leadership, raise public awareness of the benefits of clean energy technologies, improve air quality, reduce green-house gas (GHG) emissions, improve energy supply and reliability, and encourage economic development by fostering markets for environmentally preferable products.

Potential LBE Activities and Measures



Improve energy efficiency in government facilities

Through measures such as lighting upgrades, improved insulation, and better HVAC systems, states can reduce energy costs, reduce GHG emissions, increase buildings' asset value, and encourage development of energy efficiency service markets.

Integrate energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in green buildings

Substantial energy savings are possible by designing new buildings to maximize the use of local resources, such as natural light, passive heating and cooling opportunities, and building materials. Further, cost-savings can be large when incorporating new technologies into a new building's original design.

Procure energy-efficient products

Through its ENERGY STAR program, EPA certifies thousands of highly energy efficient consumer and commercial products. Procurement officials can learn more about buying certified products on ENERGY STAR's Purchasing & Procurement page.

Purchase green power

Governments can reduce their GHG emissions and encourage the development of renewable energy by purchasing their electricity from green power sources. Energy managers can visit EPA's Green Power Locator to find what options are available in their area.

Use clean energy supply technologies

Buildings can employ on-site clean energy generation technologies to reduce the amount of power they purchase from the electric grid. Technologies can include solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, small wind turbines, or combined heat and power (CHP) systems.

Implement other energy-saving opportunities

Demand response programs and environmental activities such as recycling, water efficiency, and sustainable landscaping strategies can result in significant energy cost savings.

To lead by example most effectively, states should develop an LBE program rather than take a project-by-project approach. A comprehensive program can integrate LBE activities and measures to achieve greater results and better address state energy and climate goals. Moreover, an LBE program provides opportunity for increased coordination among state agencies and additional partnerships with local governments and other organizations.

Process for Developing, Implementing, and Tracking a Program

  1. Select the LBE team. Identifying key agencies, personnel, and other groups is the first step in establishing an LBE program.
    • The process of building a strong team includes identifying a state agency to lead the effort and selecting team representatives who can offer a range of expertise in the specific LBE activities the state is considering (e.g., on facility management, energy efficiency, renew-able energy, sustainability, environment). Partners from outside state government can also provide valuable input to the implementation process and/or serve as program champions in the community.
  2. Obtain program support. Identifying and obtaining high-level support is critical to an LBE program's success.
    • Approaches for building and maintaining support include involving policymakers in the early stages of the process, identifying one or more team members with access to key decision-makers, and clearly articulating the value of the LBE initiative.
  3. Set LBE goals. Possible actions include developing an energy consumption baseline and establishing overall energy savings and GHG emission targets, as well as separate targets for new and existing buildings. Other goals can include energy-efficient produce procurement, renewable energy use, and state fleet and fuel use.
    • States should set clear, quantifiable goals (through executive orders, state laws, the state planning process, or other state initiatives) to ensure that stakeholders understand the expected outcomes, provide for ease of measurement and reporting, and demonstrate the feasibility of establishing clean energy initiatives.
  4. Establish mechanisms to implement the program. Implementation can be achieved through an executive order, state legislation, state planning process, or state energy office. In addition, other organizations can adopt programs that support of influence the state's adoption of an LBE program.
  5. Screen LBE activities and measures. States screen LBE activities by developing assessment criteria and estimating costs and benefits.
    • Developing screening criteria is the first step in determining the LBE activities and measures to include in the LBE program. Key criteria include expected energy savings, financial issues (e.g., payback periods and life-cycle costs), environmental benefits, economic benefits, visibility, and feasibility.
    • Rules of thumb are typically simple calculations that can be used to provide rough estimates of the benefits and costs of prospective LBE programs for an initial screening.
    • Preliminary analysis tools develop more rigorous calculations of the benefits and costs of LBE activities and measures, but are still easy to use.
  6. Develop a comprehensive LBE program. Program development involves integrating clean energy opportunities, determining program financing, and conducting communications and outreach. Sharing information across federal, state, and local resources and providing technical and financial assistance to local governments are also key to a comprehensive program.
    • States should take advantage of multiple financing options (e.g., municipal least-purchase agreements, revolving loan funds, aggregated purchases). In some cases, states need to modify their rules to ensure that agencies have access to a broad range of financing mechanisms (e.g., performance contracting) and accounting methods (e.g., life-cycle cost accounting).
    • States can demonstrate leadership and obtain ongoing LBE support from state agency personnel, the public, and other community stakeholders by conducting communication and outreach activities that articulate benefits and encourage participation in, and support for, the program.
    • Staff from state and municipal governments that have implemented LBE programs are key LBE resources, along with the LBE plans, model policies, and guidance they have developed. In addition, federal programs such as ENERGY STAR provide resources on designing and implementing LBE activities.
  7. Track, measure, and report on LBE program progress. Developing a tracking, evaluation, and reporting plan, establishing baselines, and conducting benchmarking are essential steps to tracking energy use, emissions, and savings.
    • It is important to periodically evaluate the state's LBE efforts and report on the results of these assessments. Based on evaluation results, states can expand successful activities and revise or eliminate unproductive LBE activities.

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Tools and Resources

Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator

The Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator (XLS) (415K Exit), developed for the ENERGY STAR program, uses building-specific data to help decision-makers quantify the financial benefits of energy efficient investments. The calculator estimates how much new energy efficiency equipment can be purchased with anticipated savings, compares financing options for energy efficiency purchases, and evaluates project economics under different interest rates.

Energy and Environment Guide to Action

The Energy and Environment Guide to Action provides in-depth information about over a dozen policies and programs that states are using to meet their energy, environmental, and economic objectives. Each policy description is based on states' experiences in designing and implementing policies that enhance energy efficiency and/or increase the use of renewable energy and clean distributed generation. Section 4.5 of the Guide discusses lead by example policies.

ENERGY STAR Building Upgrade Manual

The ENERGY STAR Building Upgrade Manual is a strategic guide that can help state governments implement profitable energy saving building upgrades. States can maximize energy savings by sequentially following the five building upgrade stages: retrocommissioning, lighting, supplemental load reduction, air distribution systems, and heating and cooling upgrades.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager

Portfolio Manager is an online tool you can use to measure and track energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Use it to benchmark the performance of one building or a whole portfolio of buildings, all in a secure online environment.

State Lead by Example (LBE) Guide

States lead by example (LBE) by establishing programs that achieve substantial energy cost savings within their own buildings and operations, and demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of clean energy to the larger market. EPA's State Lead by Example Guide identifies best practices and state examples of clean energy activities; highlights the benefits and costs of taking action; and identifies issues, strategies, and resources for implementing key steps in the development of a comprehensive LBE program. The appendices provide additional examples and information resources.

State Climate and Energy Webinars

EPA’s State Climate and Energy Webinars helps state staff explore key issues surrounding state climate and clean energy efforts, and learn about the implications of federal policies on state policies and programs. Organized as a discussion among state energy, environmental, and public utility commission officials, the State Webinars feature expert presentations. Presentations and other materials are available from past webinars focusing on Lead by Example programs.