State and Local Climate and Energy Program
Identifying and Evaluating Policy Options
Across the nation, states are identifying, evaluating, and implementing a variety of climate change and clean energy policies and programs to meet environmental, energy, and economic goals.
While options are typically evaluated by comparing potential costs to potential benefits, the benefits captured in such analyses are typically limited to energy (kWh) and demand (kW) impacts. By including in cost-benefit analyses the full set of energy and non-energy costs and benefits states can get a more complete picture of the costs and societal net benefits of potential policies in areas such as:
- Energy systems
- Human health
States are able to use the findings of their policy evaluations to:
- Demonstrate how policies and programs can help achieve multiple state energy, environmental, and economic goals in a cost-effective way
- Design or select options that offer greater energy, environmental, and economic benefits
- Build support for clean energy and climate change mitigation policies and programs
Identifying Policy Options
States should identify climate mitigation policy options based on their goals and priorities. (For more information on establishing goals and priorities, visit Developing an Action Plan.) For example, if a high priority of the effort is to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs), states can look to their GHG inventory and projection to identify sectors with the largest emissions to target for action. (For more information, visit Developing a GHG Inventory.)
To understand the range of options available, states can:
- Explore options that other states have recommended through their climate change action plans
- Consider options that other states have successfully implemented:
- EPA's Clean Energy-Environment Guide to Action provides information about states' experiences in designing and implementing 16 clean energy and climate change policies and programs.
- EPA's Clean Energy Lead by Example (LBE) Guide and Lead by Example Case Studies identify best practices and state examples of policies and programs to advance clean energy and address climate change within state government operations.
- EPA's State Partner Network distributes weekly summaries of state climate and energy policy news and provides a mechanism for peer exchange among state energy, environmental, and utility staff.
Evaluating Policy Options
For clean energy policies, a starting point for screening and evaluating options is to understand the potential energy savings or renewable energy generation output that would be expected to result from the policies. These data can then be used to estimate prospective energy system, environmental, and/or economic impacts (costs and benefits) of the options such as those described in the graphic below.
Relationship Between Energy Savings & Other Benefits of Clean Energy Initiatives
The tools and approaches available for evaluating the impacts of options range from basic screening methods to sophisticated dynamic simulation models. In selecting the most appropriate tools or method, states can consider many factors, including purpose of analysis, impact(s) of interest, time constraints, cost, data requirements/availability, as well as internal staff expertise. States can either conduct the evaluation themselves or hire consultants. Regardless of who conducts the analysis, states should understand the methods and assumptions used in the analyses as they dramatically affect the results of the analyses. The Determining Results page provides more detailed information about possible state approaches.
Tools and Resources
Guidance and Methods
Assessing the Multiple Benefits of Clean EnergyAssessing the Multiple Benefits of Clean Energy: A Resource for States provides an overview of the multiple benefits of clean energy and their importance. It includes information on:
- The importance of and approaches to calculating or estimating energy savings as the foundation for deriving multiple benefits
- A range of tools and approaches to estimating energy systems, environmental, and economic benefits across varying levels of rigor
- How states have supported the use of clean energy through the estimation of multiple benefits
Building Life Cycle Cost (BLCC) Programs
BLCC computer programs conduct economic analyses by evaluating the relative cost-effectiveness of alternative buildings and building-related systems or components. Typically, BLCC software is used to evaluate alternative designs that have higher initial costs but lower operating-related costs over the project life than the lowest-initial-cost design. It is especially useful for evaluating the costs and benefits of energy and water conservation and renewable energy projects. BLCC also calculates comparative economic measures for alternative designs, including net savings, savings-to-investment ratio, adjusted internal rate of return, and years to payback.
Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator
The Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator (XLS) (415K, About XLS ), 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.
Job and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) Models
JEDI models are easy-to-use models that analyze the economic impacts of constructing and operating power generation and biofuel plants at the local and state level. First developed to model wind energy development impacts, JEDI now includes models to analyze the job and economic impacts of biofuel plants and concentrating solar power, coal and natural gas power plants.
Emissions & Generation Resource Integrated Database (eGRID)
eGRID contains a comprehensive inventory of environmental attributes of electric power systems including air emissions data for nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and mercury. The data are organized in a series of Microsoft Excel files that state governments can use to find data on emissions from electricity generation within their state.
States can use this tool to evaluate the environmental benefits of choosing cleaner sources of energy. The Power Profiler is a Web-based tool that allows users to evaluate the air pollution and greenhouse gas impact of their electricity choices. Using only a ZIP code, the tool generates a report describing the characteristics of one's electricity use.
WAste Reduction Model (WARM)
EPA created the WAste Reduction Model (WARM) to help solid waste planners and organizations track and voluntarily report greenhouse gas emissions reductions from several different waste management practices. WARM calculates and totals GHG emissions of baseline and alternative waste management practices-source reduction, recycling, combustion, composting, and landfilling.
Cool Roofing Comparison Calculator
States considering policies promoting the use of solar reflective (or "cool") roofing can estimate the energy savings associated with various roofing types using this online calculator developed for ENERGY STAR. The Cool Roofing Comparison Calculator estimates energy cost savings for air-conditioned residential, office, or commercial buildings with at least 3,000 square feet of roof area and heated by either natural gas or an electric heat pump. The calculator provides estimates of building-specific energy savings by taking site- and structure-specific factors into account. The tool calculates the net energy savings that would result from a different type of roofing, taking into account potential increases in heating costs along with reduced cooling costs.
E-Calc is a Web-based calculator that allows government and building industry users to design and evaluate a wide range of projects for energy savings and emissions reduction potential. This tracking tool was developed by Texas A&M University's Energy Systems Laboratory in response to legislative incentives to quantify emissions reductions from building energy savings and distributed renewable technology. E-Calc evaluates residential, commercial, retail, and municipal buildings energy and emissions savings, as well as savings from renewables like solar heating, solar PV, and wind power.
ENERGY STAR Energy Savings Calculators
ENERGY STAR's Purchasing & Procurement page provides spreadsheet tools that calculate the cost benefits of ENERGY STAR appliances. Energy Savings Calculators are available for a wide range of product categories including dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers, vending machines, heat pumps, computers, computer monitors, and copiers.
ENERGY STAR Target Finder
States can use this Web-based tool to assist with energy management planning during the design phase of building construction. Target Finder allows planners to set an aggressive energy performance target for building design and compare estimated energy consumption to the established target. The tool can provide direction during the design process and facilitate the evaluation of a range of energy efficiency measures to achieve energy and cost goals.
MARKet ALlocation (MARKAL) Model
MARKAL , developed by the International Energy Agency, is a model that assists users in selecting appropriate technologies for maximum emissions control and cost effectiveness. Because the model gives results in terms of cost per unit of emissions abatement, this tool can be useful in determining the costs associated with certain policy measures. EPA has a nine region MARKAL technology database (EPANMD) in electronic format available to the public upon request.
National Energy Modeling System (NEMS)
NEMS is a general equilibrium energy-economic model of the United States. It projects the production, import, conversion, consumption, and prices of energy, subject to assumptions on macroeconomic and financial factors, world energy markets, resource availability and costs, behavioral and technological choice criteria, cost and performance characteristics of energy technologies, and demographics. The modeling system is unique in its comprehensive treatment of supply-side technologies (particularly in the electricity sector), and its detailed treatment of energy demand at the end-use level.
Co-Benefits Risk Assessment (COBRA) Screening Model
COBRA is a screening tool that enables users to:
- Roughly estimate the impact of emission changes on ambient air pollution
- Further translate this into health effect impacts
- Monetize the value of those impacts
- View the estimated county-level results in tables and maps
Environmental Benefits Mapping and Analysis Program (BenMAP)
BenMAP is a tool for estimating the health and economic benefits of air pollution reduction strategies. It combines air pollution monitoring data, air quality modeling data, census information, and population projections to calculate a population's potential exposure to ambient air pollution. BenMAP is used primarily to estimate benefits from changes in particulate matter and ozone concentrations, but it can also be adapted for other pollutants. Most Windows-based computers run BenMAP.