About the Regional Indicators Initiative

Overview

The Regional Indicators Initiative measures annual performance metrics for 22 Minnesota cities committed to increasing their overall efficiency and level of sustainability. The project collects the following data that reflect the activities of the people who live, work, learn, travel, visit, and play within each city’s geographical boundaries:

 

Actual data is collected for four primary indicators, which comprise over 90% of each city's total greenhouse gas emissions.

ENERGY

Electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, coal and biomass, and
district energy consumed for both residential and commercial/industrial use.
SOURCE:    Utility data
UNIT:          Thousand British thermal units (kBtu)

WATER

Potable water consumption for both residential and commercial/industrial use.
SOURCE:    Municipal water data
UNIT:          Gallons

TRAVEL

On-road distance traveled by all vehicles within the municipality boundaries.
SOURCE:    Minnesota Department of Transportation
UNIT:          Vehicle miles traveled (VMT)

WASTE

Total municipal solid waste that is landfilled, composted, incinerated or recycled.
SOURCE:    MPCA SCORE reports and county Waste Certification reports (data not currently available at a city level).
UNIT:          Pounds (lbs)

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and costs associated with each of these indicators are also calculated, providing a common metric to compare the economic and environmental impacts of the indicators.

GHG EMISSIONS

The greenhouse gases (GHG) associated with each of the four indicators (Energy, Water, Travel and Waste) are represented for each city. The carbon baseline assessments prepared for each participating city have been prepared consistent with the ‘U.S. ICLEI Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions’, October 2012 and are geographically calculated rather than consumption-based.  
UNIT:    Carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e)

 COST

The retail costs to the consumer.  In the case of electricity, natural gas, and other stationary fuels, the estimates include the average retail costs for all of the consumption costs and related fees.  For vehicle miles traveled, the assessments include the average statewide costs for the fuel only, not the full costs of driving.  For waste management, the costs are statewide averages of the total retail service costs and fees for the various waste management methods.
 

The indicators are expressed not only as annual totals, but are also broken down into residential and commercial/industrial uses and also presented in terms of per capita, per job and per household normalizations. This enables energy, water, waste, and travel to be compared across cities and across time. Caution should be taken when making direct comparisons between cities, however, as many factors are not included in this simplified normalization. The Initiative supports planning for sustainability by defining a baseline, tracking a business-as-usual trajectory, establishing targets, and measuring outcomes of sustainable strategies at a city-wide scale.

For more information regarding the process of data collection and assumptions made, see here


Background

The Initiative was conceived as a way to track the progress of cities involved in the GreenStep Cities Program. To achieve GreenStep recognition a city must meet minimum requirements and choose from 28 best practices designed to improve the city’s sustainability. While the program tracks which practices cities have adopted, it does not currently have a method of tracking how effective these strategies have been at  “moving the needle” towards sustainability.

The desire to measure the impacts of sustainable practices led to a collaborative project, managed by LHB for the Urban Land Institute of Minnesota (ULI MN).  This team developed a pilot to determine what citywide data can be collected annually to effectively measure progress towards sustainability. Three cities – St. Louis Park, Falcon Heights, and Edina – funded the study and volunteered to release their resource consumption data for the period of 2008-2010. The pilot study proved that the four indicators of city-wide sustainability described above (energy, water, vehicle miles traveled and waste) can be measured, gathered, and analyzed annually in a reasonable period of time and at a relatively low cost. The Regional Indicators Initiative was developed to continue this study at a larger scale, opening up the possibility to compare data across a range of Minnesota cities.


Scope

The Initiative’s participant cities currently comprise a data sample size that represents over a quarter of Minnesota’s population (29%) and includes municipalities of varying  types from the state’s four largest cities to inner and outer-ring suburbs of various sizes:


Central/Stand-Alone Cities:

Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester, Duluth


Inner-ring Suburbs:

Richfield, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, St. Anthony, Edina, Falcon Heights, Maplewood


Outer-ring Suburbs: 

White Bear Lake, Coon Rapids, Oakdale, Bloomington, Shoreview, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Woodbury, Rosemount, Lake Elmo


Annual data has been collected for all indicators from 2008 through 2012. The list of participant cities continues to grow along with the awareness that maintaining a continuous database of consumption patterns is an essential task for measuring actual (rather than predicted) progress in sustainability.

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Purpose

Recording these performance metrics is essential to promoting efficiency and sustainable change. By collecting annually comparable indicators for twenty Minnesota cities, the effectiveness of best practices within the State’s GreenStep Cities Program can be analyzed, promoted and improved. Additionally, the Initiative will indicate progress toward meeting the State’s energy efficiency and GHG reduction goals, as defined by the Minnesota Next Generation Energy Act of 2007.  Along with providing state-wide benefits and serving as a model for other regions, the Initiative is valuable to each participating city.  Inventorying the resources consumed at the community level will:

• Highlight opportunities to save resources and money.
• Provide a baseline for estimating the effectiveness of sustainability measures.
• Enable comparison with peer cities and different time-frames.
• Inform subsequent analyses, plans, and policy decisions by the cities and others.
• Improve each city’s competitiveness for federal and state funding opportunities that are targeted to cities that have taken steps to measure and improve their energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprints.
• Assist in promoting public understanding of the city’s effect on climate change.

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The graph above is a linear regression from 2005 and 2008-2011 data to show that if the RII cities continue to follow current trends, their GHG emissions from energy, VMT, and waste will increase. It also shows the rate of change necessary to meet the statewide target established by the Next Generation Energy Act (NGEA) of a 40% reduction of GHG emissions by 2030, using 2005 as a baseline. This target is based on total GHG emissions; therefore, since the population is expected to continue growing, each person must reduce their emissions at the even steeper rate of 49%.


Sponsors

Participating Cities:

Bloomington Minnetonka
Coon Rapids Oakdale
Duluth Richfield
Eagan Rochester
Eden Prairie Rosemount
Edina St. Paul
Falcon Heights Shoreview
Hopkins Saint Anthony
Lake Elmo St. Louis Park
Maplewood White Bear Lake
Minneapolis Woodbury


Primary Funders:
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Minnesota Department of Commerce
Urban Land Institute MN
Great Plains Institute

Team Members:
LHB Inc.
ORANGE Environmental, LLC

Contributors

Public and Private Utilities:
Anoka Municipal Utility
CenterPoint Energy
Connexus
Dakota Electric Association
Duluth Comfort Systems
Duluth Steam Cooperative
Great River Energy
Hennepin Energy Recovery Center
Minnesota Energy Resources
Minnesota Power
Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative
NRG Energy
Olmsted County Waste to Energy Facility
Rochester Public Utility
St. Paul District Energy
University of Minnesota (Southeast Steam)
Western Lake Superior Sanitation District
Xcel Energy

State and Local Government:
Duluth Port Authority
Hennepin County
Metropolitan Airports Commission
Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities
Minnesota Department of Administration
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota Department of Transportation
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Rochester International Airport
U.S. Energy Information Administration
University of Minnesota

Other Organizations:
Degree Days.net
ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability