The Local Government Challenge is an example of how the CEC is helping local governments achieve energy planning and take action to reach targets and goals to ensure a resilient and sustainable future. In 2017, the CEC awarded more than $10 million in two competitive grant programs.  The Local Government Challenge awarded $7.2 million for Energy Innovation Challenge grants and $3 million for Small Government Leadership Challenge grants.

The Energy Innovation Challenge grants provided opportunities to deploy new energy efficiency and renewable generation projects that support local goals and statewide energy policy. Awardees were required to share best practices and implementation templates with the CEC and other local governments. The resources will be available on this page as the projects are completed. 

The Small Government Leadership grants made available dedicated funding to disadvantaged communities with populations fewer than 150,000. Awardees were given technical assistance and grant funding for citywide energy efficiency improvements that advance goals in adopted climate or energy action plans.

In addition to the Local Government Challenge, the CEC funds the Tribal Government Challenge, which is administered by the California Strategic Growth Council. $2.5 million in funding was awarded to help tribes conduct planning to identify solutions to reduce GHG emissions, improve clean energy access, and advance climate adaptation and resiliency on tribal lands and in tribal communities.

Map of Local Government Challenge Grant Awardees

Image of California showing Local Government Challenge Grant Awardees locations

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Energy Innovation Challenge Awardees

Grant amount: $1,991,444

In 2017, the City of San Diego received a grant from the California Energy Commission to launch the Smart City Open Urban Platform (SCOUP) pilot to enable remote, automated control, and tracking of energy systems at city facilities. Under the pilot, energy use data and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager benchmarking data for all 3,500 municipal energy meters were integrated into SCOUP databases and displayed through public-facing energy dashboards. Additionally, four buildings were integrated into a central Building Automation System equipped with fault detection and diagnostics. The project buildings included three municipal libraries and the City Administration Building. With this system in place, the city expects to operate the buildings more efficiently and experience both energy and greenhouse gas reductions. The project was completed in March 2022.

Grant amount: $1,995,963

San Leandro used grant funds to install high-efficiency light-emitting diode (LED) lighting, a building automation system, and a 1-megawatt solar photovoltaic power generation system at the city's water pollution control plant. The project helped meet the goals of the City's climate action plan, which includes a target to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Post-project, with three months of data collected (June through August 2020), the project showed a 17 percent reduction in energy use intensity, with further reductions anticipated. The plant will be consistently benchmarked to sustain energy efficiency, produce optimal power, and continue to reduce energy use going forward.

City of San Leandro’s Innovative Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Deployment Project

Grant amount: $1,000,000

StopWaste led the development of EnergyPro Lite, a streamlined version of the EnergyPro software. The software models potential energy savings from energy equipment changes or upgrades in existing multifamily buildings to accelerate energy improvements in Bay Area jurisdictions. EnergyPro Lite is available at no cost to cities and energy programs. The software can be found at the StopWaste website.

The project team also provided benchmarking technical assistance to multifamily property owners to assess potential problems with data quality and recommend solutions. During this process, the team encountered challenges to ensuring that complete and accurate data was obtained from the utilities and submitted to the CEC. The project team leveraged the benchmarking data set to analyze the relationship between energy use intensity and various building characteristics to compare energy model predictions with actual performance.

Accelerating Multifamily Building Upgrades

Grant amount: $1,720,343 

Marin Clean Energy, a community choice aggregator (CCA), designed and implemented a replicable program aimed at deploying distributed energy resources and supporting statewide goals to increase renewable energy generation and storage deployment. Through this project, Marin Clean Energy developed the NavigaDER tool. This tool helps CCAs create programs for customers that reduce GHG emissions. The tool uses customer data to compare GHGs before and after implementation of a new CCA managed program. In one demonstration, Marin Clean Energy used NavigaDER to target solar customers for a battery storage program, that would store excess solar energy produced during the day to be used in the evening hours. This reduced GHG emissions by reducing the need for fossil fuel energy in the evenings.

Marin Clean Energy rolled out software to CCAs in January 2021. Data on program uptake, usage, and distributed energy resources impacts results are expected in early 2022. The software is intended for use by California CCAs, and the resources and code are open source enabling replication of the project in other areas.

Marin Clean Energy Building Energy Optimization: Software for Distributed Energy Resource Program & Procurement Planning

Small Government Leadership Challenge Awardees

Grant amount: $275,008

The grant funded the Resilient Neighborhoods program, a grassroots effort to reduce residential building energy use in support of the state’s energy efficiency doubling goals and implement local government climate action plan activities. These households installed over 4,000 LED bulbs, completed 219 efficiency actions, purchased 74 new high-efficiency appliances, and conducted 154 whole-house audits. By installing solar energy systems, program graduates are laying the foundation for adding battery storage and creating future micro grids resilient to “public safety power shutoff” events and disasters. In addition, new water-saving behaviors and devices will help ensure there is enough water for people and wildlife in the changing climate. Surveys found that 99 percent of new behaviors started in the program were sustained one year after graduation, and 75 percent of graduates continued taking actions toward a carbon-neutral household after completing the program. Graduates continued to make their homes fire safe, and some worked with neighbors to be certified as Firewise USA neighborhoods. One graduate organized a neighborhood street tree planting of 65 trees.

During the project period, 208 households graduated from the program: 15 percent over the goal of 180 households. In addition, project graduates reduced nearly 3,166,000 CO2 pounds, 83 percent over the goal of 1,725,000 CO2 pounds.

Marin Climate and Energy Partnership/Resilient Neighborhoods Grassroots Climate Action Case Study

Grant amount: $645,800

The City of Galt used grant funds to develop a Climate Action Plan, a Transportation Corridor Management Plan, and a Master Plan. The three plans are part of Galt's 2030 General Plan goals to ensure the city’s growth complies with state and regional climate goals. The plans were all completed and adopted by the City in the grant implementation timeframe and budget. The Galt City Council held a study session on January 18, 2022, to provide staff direction regarding next steps in the Galt Market Community Plan visioning process. The City Council reviewed past outreach efforts and agreed that the Galt Market Grounds and surrounding area were important to and for the community and should be utilized to a highest and best use. The City Council directed staff to return in July 2022, for a public workshop to discuss next steps and options. Future steps also include detailed design level workshops and economic analysis with the City Council and public to develop an implementation plan. A key component of the Master Plan’s future progress will be to develop funding sources and identify state and regional partnerships.

By creating a streamlining process for future environmental review of development projects in the City, developing specific designs for a “Complete Street” along Carillion Boulevard, and advancing a long-term vision and plan for the Galt Market and surrounding City-owned properties, the completion of the three projects provides an opportunity to reduce the City’s total GHG emissions by providing a comprehensive framework for sustainable development within the City.

City of Galt Climate Action Plan, Transportation Corridor Management Plan, and Master Plan



Grant amount: $523,672

Santa Cruz used grant funds to add building automation system hardware and software to the police station and the City Hall Annex. Prior to the project, the building’s baseload energy use (minimal hourly power draw) was approximately 40 kW. After the installation, baseload energy use decreased by 5 kW or 12.5 percent to 35 kW. That represents a 43,500-kWh/year savings or a 10 percent reduction in total energy use on an annual basis. The benefits from installing advanced controls included energy savings, a better tuned system, and increased responsiveness to changing operating and weather conditions. Adjustments that used to take several minutes now take seconds.

In addition to the automation system hardware, Santa Cruz prepared a comprehensive toolkit that could be used by other municipal agencies to implement similar projects. Among other functions, the toolkit provides a prioritization guidance document and flow chart to identify buildings that consume the most energy and are good candidates for advanced controls system integration. It also estimates potential energy and emissions reductions from advanced building controls projects and utilizes a step-by-step advanced building energy controls project development and implementation guide with ballpark cost estimates for each stage, permitting requirements, sample requests for design-build proposals, and project evaluation guidance. This toolkit can be found here:

City of Santa Cruz Advanced Building Controls

Grant amount: $327,206

San Luis Obispo County funded a study to identify the technical, social, and organizational feasibility of neighborhood-based, deep energy savings in a disadvantaged community. The project sought to develop a framework to convert existing, low-income neighborhoods to ZNE in San Luis Obispo County and across California. Project deliverables include resources such as the Excel-based Energy Profile and Conservation Tool and a report on project distributed energy resources findings.

The primary outcome of this project is Oceano has a roadmap to address the physical, financial, and operational challenges facing the community and resources available to achieving ZNE, which has positioned the project for further grant funding, detailed site analysis, environmental review, and financing. A secondary outcome of this project is that the Tri-Counties Regional Energy Network is well positioned to serve hard to reach residents and building professionals in the community through its Residential Direct Install and Workforce Education and Training Programs.

EnergyWise Plan Energy Section Update including Zero Net Energy Neighborhood Feasibility, Design, and Implementation Study

Grant amount: $186,708 

The grant funds were used to develop a detailed ZNE roadmap and implementation plan. The developed plan includes energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrade measures for city-owned buildings to achieve ZNE and an implementation plan to install the measures by 2030. Thirty-six sites, with a total of 104 buildings, parks, and other properties, were analyzed in the study. Energy efficiency measures were analyzed with their respective savings, cost, and payback. Associated implementation costs ($/kWh) used to extrapolate capital costs for projects, were applied to energy efficiency, solar, and battery storage projects.

The study determined the City has several good ZNE building candidates. Since the launching of the City’s new CCA, Santa Barbara Clean Energy, on October 1, 2021, all municipal facilities are supplied with 100 percent carbon-free electricity, thus removing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity fueled systems. This opens a pathway for the City to achieve ZNE for municipal buildings by addressing natural gas use. Next steps will be finding ways to support building electrification and electrification readiness, through equipment upgrades on panels and updating appliances. A summary with a link to the report will be available shortly.

City of Santa Barbara, Zero Net Energy Roadmap and Implementation Plan

Grant amount: $427,544 

The grant funded community and municipal energy action plans for three communities in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. The funds were used to develop a template that can be used by cities within the two counties to develop and customize future energy action plans, and to develop a business energy efficiency pilot program.

Under the Community Planning Scenario, when all federal, state, and local action reductions are applied, each city’s GHG emissions are forecast to decrease approximately 45 percent by 2030. Anticipated reductions for each city in mega tons of CO2 equivalent (MTCO2e) are, 281,911 for City of Ventura; 95,097 for City of Moorpark; and 611,750 for City of Thousand Oaks. In addition to the direct GHG reduction benefits associated with the energy action plan strategies, the strategies lower utility bills, reduce pollution, increase the usage of renewable energy, increase equity, and enhance local resiliency in preparation for rising utility costs, natural disasters, and global climate change.

Planning for a Resilient FutureEnergy Action Plans for the Cities of Ventura, Moorpark, and Thousand Oaks

Grant amount: $466,000

The Gateway Cities Council of Governments is a collection of 27 cities and includes areas of unincorporated Los Angeles County and the Port of Long Beach, totaling 2.1 million people. The council used grant funds to prepare a planning framework and toolkit for member governments to develop and adopt climate action plans. The plans help members consider additional steps to reduce GHG emissions. The framework provides capacity for cities to support statewide climate goals, prepare communities for climate impacts, and gain an advantage in pursuing climate investments from climate action plan framework implementation.

The Gateway Cities climate action planning framework adaptation toolkit provides cities with baseline information on climate hazards and adaptation measures to help prepare them for the potential impacts of climate change. The adaptation toolkit is designed to help cities integrate climate change adaptation goals, policies, objectives, and actions into climate action plans, general plans, and local hazard mitigation plans, and help meet the intent of state legislation.

Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program Adaptation Clearing House - Gateway Cities Council of Governments Climate Action Planning Framework

Grant amount: $250,635 

The grant funded an update to the 2014 San Bernardino County Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan in local jurisdictions. The eight cities who participated in the update include Adelanto, Barstow, Big Bear Lake, Hesperia, Needles, Twentynine Palms, Victorville, and Yucca Valley.

The reduction plan helped local jurisdictions to plan, track and monitor their local approaches to reducing GHG emissions which helped the state overall to meet its goals. Local reductions for building energy use were 49 percent. San Bernardino County was the first region in California to complete a multi-jurisdictional GHG reduction plan back in 2014 and was a model for many other regions. The approach in the original plan and the 2021 update used can be used for other multi-jurisdictional regions in California and elsewhere.

Case Study: San Bernardino County Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan Update 2021

Grant amount: $388,893 

Del Mar used the grant to install a 62.6-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof of the new city hall and a battery energy storage system that can provide a minimum of five hours backup or supplemental power. This project was a collaboration with the Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego, which is distributing information on the energy savings and performance metrics from the project.

The installed PV system generated over 107,000 kWh of renewable electricity, equivalent of 50 percent of annual electric consumption at the Civic Center. The energy storage system was able to prevent about 4,500 kWh from being exported and stored it for later usage onsite. The system continues to provide the Civic Center with “peak-shaving” benefits, discharging the battery during expensive on-peak periods to avoid costly monthly demand charges, particularly during late afternoon city hall meetings. Overall, the PV and energy storage system saved the city over $20,000 in utility bill costs. In the absence of solar PV and battery storage, the city would have paid nearly $54,000 in annual electricity bills compared to actual San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E) bills that came in closer to $30,000.

The Del Mar Civic Center Energy Enhancements Project