This article is the first in a series on DOE’s work at the state, local, and national levels to facilitate the transition to a 100% clean electricity system.

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An outline of a bus on a blue background, with the words "With DOE's support, Louisville cut its energy consumption in government facilities by 10%, saved more than $1.2 million, and offset roughly 10,000 tons of emissions" written over it. The bottom is a green stripe with "Regional Decarbonization" and the EERE logo on it.

Cities looking to transition to an equitable clean energy future must also integrate equity into the effort, as low-income and impoverished residents are disproportionately affected by the public health detriments of fossil fuel use. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is available to assist such communities, including those like Louisville, Kentucky, where that commitment can take even greater importance and pose a greater challenge, as roughly 16% of the population lives below the poverty line—a significantly greater share than the national average of 11.4%.

In February 2020, the City of Louisville adopted a 100% Renewable Energy resolution, committing to a goal of 100% clean energy by 2040. To improve public health and reduce the household energy burden for its most disadvantaged communities, the municipal government sought DOE’s help in establishing a program that offered direct, easily accessible benefits to low-income residents.

In early 2022, the city partnered with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to assess options for achieving 100% clean electricity for municipal government operations by 2030. Then, through DOE’s Communities LEAP program, Louisville began developing a plan to use distributed energy resources, such as solar panels and batteries—as well as energy-efficiency upgrades—to decarbonize residential areas.

Technical assistance from DOE is helping the city navigate several crucial aspects of this process, including:

  • An analysis of the cost-saving potential of energy-efficient technologies in the city’s public housing system
  • A comprehensive review of local energy policies and programs that could affect deployment of clean energy technologies
  • A study of the local workforce and opportunities to develop skilled, home-grown workers to support the transition
  • An overview of financing options, including examples of financing mechanisms successfully employed in cities with comparable regulatory environments
  • Strategies to engage with community members and stakeholders, including technical workshops and other public-awareness initiatives.

And this partnership is starting to pay off. In 2021, Louisville cut its energy consumption in government facilities by 10%, saving the city more than $1.2 million and offsetting roughly 10,000 tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions. In October 2022, then-Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer signed an executive order raising the city’s carbon-reduction targets and formalizing its commitment to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

“Through our invaluable partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and community partners, we are developing a unique roadmap to integrate sustainability, efficiency, and climate responsibility in the way we build housing,” said Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg. “We are excited about the impact this collaborative effort will have on our community and the planet.”

We know that a clean power grid will be the backbone of a net-zero emissions future. The reduction of emissions in our country’s buildings, transportation, and industrial facilities relies on transitioning much of their energy use from fuels to electricity, so that electricity must be clean. But there is no single, one-size-fits-all approach to get there. NREL's landmark report on the challenges and opportunities associated with the transition to clean power identifies multiple pathways to 100% clean electricity by 2035. The pathway any one community takes must be tailored to its own situation. Louisville’s initiatives demonstrate how local stakeholders who fully understand the challenges and priorities of a given jurisdiction must take the lead when making choices about investments in research and development, manufacturing, and infrastructure.

Learn more about DOE’s efforts to facilitate planning for 100% clean energy through our funding and technical assistance programs:

  • The Grid Solutions Program helps utilities, industry, and leaders overcome planning, operation, and other grid challenges.
  • Communities LEAP partners with low income, energy-burdened communities that experience environmental justice challenges and/or direct economic impacts from reducing their historical reliance on fossil fuels to build community-driven action plans for clean energy-related economic development.
  • The Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project works with remote and island communities transforming their energy systems.
  • Clean Energy to Communities connects local governments, community organizations, and utilities with national lab experts for tailor-made support.
  • DOE frequently issues funding opportunity announcements soliciting projects to advance clean energy technology research and development.