State Energy Offices make numerous decisions when designing a program to support or drive action by municipalities.

See all documents from example states in the Library .

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement, particularly with the goal of centering and elevating the voices of vulnerable, disadvantaged, or disproportionately-impacted populations is a cornerstone in effective policymaking and planning. While stakeholder engagement alone is insufficient to achieve energy equity, it is a key component as it supports procedural equity, which the Urban Sustainability Directors Network defines as “inclusive, accessible, authentic engagement and representation in process to develop or implement sustainability programs and policies.”

Meaningful and equitable stakeholder engagement may take different forms, but often relies on trusting partnerships with community-based organizations, providing flexible options to relieve the burden of the participatory process, and enabling community-led investments and decision-making wherever possible. Designing Equity-Focused Stakeholder Engagement to Inform State Energy Office Programs and Policies – co-authored by NASEO, Facilitating Power, and Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Division – discusses reference points, a self-evaluation tool, and resources that may support State Energy Offices interested in the field of equitable stakeholder engagement. 

Energy Plan Guidance

The guidance materials for how communities should develop energy plans created by each of these programs are an excellent resource for developing guidance for your states.

See Massachusetts , Wisconsin , and Pennsylvania guidance.

It may also be helpful to review projects carried out by Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania communities when developing your own project.

Goals and Name

The process of crafting a concise written goals statement for a new program both creates internal consensus and serves as an essential tool for intra-government communications. Periodic updates to the goal statement memorialize changes in program scale and/or scope as it proceeds through internal review.

NameMA Green CommunitiesWI Energy Independent CommunitiesPA Local Climate Action Program
Planning objectiveReduce energy use of all municipal facilities and buildings by 20% over five years.Source 25% of municipal energy needs from renewable sources by 2025.Allow local governments and college students to work together to develop GHG inventories and climate action plans to help achieve the goal of net zero emissions as soon as possible.

Developing a program name is an important branding step for internal and external communications. The Massachusetts Green Communities Program, the Wisconsin Energy Independent Communities Program, and the Pennsylvania Local Climate Action Program are named to reflect the program goals.

Recommendations for program names:

  • Capture the programs’ goals
  • Reflect and amplify the state’s overall climate and energy goals
  • Be consistent with other State Energy Office and state messaging on climate and energy
  • Energize municipal and stakeholder participation and pride in accomplishments

Proposed action items:

  • Collect input from stakeholders, especially community leaders
  • Align program objectives with state policies and goals
  • Finalize the program name
  • Craft a goals statement
  • Craft a one-page program description to support consistent communications

Justice40 Considerations

Through Executive Order 14008 which established the Justice40 Initiative, the Biden Administration has set a goal of ensuring that at least 40 percent of the benefits of federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities. Justice40 will have significant implications for hundreds of programs across the federal government, including clean energy, climate, and resilience programs that are overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in partnership with states. State Energy Offices and their partners may wish to consider assessing various dimensions of their programs – including such factors as the ability of disadvantaged and diverse individuals and communities to influence, participate in, and access the benefits of state policies and programs – and explore metrics and reporting strategies that will help illustrate the Justice40 impacts of their policies, programs, and investments. Available resources to support these actions include:

Through NASEO’s Energy Equity Committee , State Energy Offices can learn about ongoing developments and resources that support federal Justice40 and state energy equity and environmental justice goals.

To help states identify the location of disadvantaged communities, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has developed The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) . Instructions for using the tool are linked above.

Performance Metrics

To be most useful, performance metrics should be defined during program design, before any implementation, so that systems can be put in place to gather the data necessary for evaluation. The State Energy Office will need to consider performance metrics that are required by the entity providing funding, as well as any additional performance metrics the State Energy Office wants to track for its own internal purposes. When considering performance metrics, state priorities, including specific climate goals and equity goals, should be a focus.

Funding agency priorities around performance metrics are also important to consider during program design. Guidance on performance metrics from funding agencies under IIJA have not been issued as of March 2023. To get a sense of what performance metrics DOE might place on funding used to support a SCPF program, see the program evaluation of the EECBG authorized under ARRA in 2009. This was conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2015, found here . See a summary of the top performance metrics considered in the report .

Proposed action items:

  • Create a straw proposal for performance metrics for your state program, along with a list of data elements and data collection frequency needed to calculate each metric (to be adjusted later based on funding agencies’ final guidance).
  • Research data collection and management system options to simplify accurate and timely calculation of performance metrics.

Eligibility Criteria and Funding Strategies

Building a program that incentivizes communities to plan before making clean energy investments is core to the SCPF Program In a Box. However, the three example programs illustrate very different approaches to achieving goals. The table below can help your team think through potential eligibility criteria and funding decisions.

Name MA Green Communities WI Energy Independent Communities PA Local Climate Action Program
Program Funding Annual funding for both planning and implementation components of the programs authorized by the Green Communities Act of 2008
  • Planning – one-time 2009 ARRA funding SEP planning funds
  • Implementation – 2009 ARRA EECBG Grant
  • State Energy Program funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy
  • Additional Resources supporting LCAP provided by Penn State (including curriculum devotion, course development, and training)
  • Original total was approximately $50,000
  • Amount for 2023-2024 program year is $10,000
Eligibility Criteria Municipalities
  • Municipalities
  • EECBG funds were made available to Wisconsin towns, villages and counties that did not receive direct federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy
  • Eligibility for additional grants was available once communities became Energy Independent Communities.
  • Municipalities, Counties, and Regional Planning Organizations
  • Must have the capacity needed to participate including the ability to devote staff time to the work of completing the greenhouse gas inventory, working with the students on the project, and the authority to acquire utility bills for the participating local government

Proposed action items:

  • Create a straw proposal including an outline of a two-step grant process for a SCPF program in your state, to use in initial conversations with leadership and stakeholders.

Budget and Staffing

Program implementation is where the hard realities of budget and staff capacity often temper high aspirations.

Before making final choices on program design:

  • Analyze budget allocations and staffing capacity required.
  • Make necessary adjustments.
  • If federal funding will be used, reserve sufficient funds to close out grants. 

This will increase your chances for success.

Scale and Scope

This is the nitty gritty of program design, defining exactly what will be accomplished, over what time period, by which parties, and with what resources. The three state programs provide an example of the range of scales and scopes.

Each State Energy Office will need to design its program to fit their state’s aspirations, needs, and resources. The table below can help your team think through the many decisions that need to be made.

Program Scale and Scope MA Green Communities WI Energy Independent Communities PA Local Climate Action Program (LCAP)
Scope of Activities The initial Green Communities Act statute focused exclusively on energy use reduction. Recent legislation expands the scope of the Green Communities program to cover decarbonization and climate adaptation Increasing energy independence through improved efficiency and development of local clean energy resources Developing GHG inventories and climate action plans for municipal governments
Program Funding  Ongoing with dedicated annual budget Primarily one-time funding from ARRA with limited ongoing support from internal State Energy Office resources  Funded by the State Energy Program of the U.S. Department of Energy
Duration Ongoing since 2010 Active grants to communities 2009-2017 Ongoing since 2019
Reach 280 of 351 municipalities (80% of Massachusetts municipalities) have been designated as Green Communities; 87% of Massachusetts residents live in Green Communities 150 communities representing 60% of the population of Wisconsin have been designated as Energy Independent Communities 440+ municipalities, including 46 environmental justice communities, have participated in LCAP since launch
State Energy Office Functions
  • Grant administration
  • Typically, three different grants offered each year:
    1. Green Communities Grant – available to designated Green Communities for clean energy projects
    2. Regional Energy Planning Assistance (REPA) grants are awarded to Regional Planning Agencies for support services, project implementation, clean energy planning and capacity building for any municipality, not just designated Green Communities
    3. Municipal Energy Technical Assistance (META): Grants available for technical services to help make a clean energy project “shovel ready” – engineering studies, project specifications, etc.
  • Management of annual program compliance reporting
  • Dedicated energy consumption data tracking systems
  • Dedicated electronic document management systems
  • Communications to municipalities
  • Relationship building with municipalities
  • Grant administration
    • Planning grants to communities
    • Implementation grants to communities
  • Communications with municipalities
  • Relationship building with municipalities
  • Municipal Energy Efficiency Technical Assistance Program (MEETAP)
  • Energy Security assistance for local governments
  • DEP provides funding for ICLEI memberships and assistance with gathering data from utilities to calculate greenhouse gas inventories
  • Additional DEP programming involvement possibilities with the Shared Energy Manager and CAPstone programs
  • Expert guidance with ClearPath software
  • Access to state and national networks of climate organizations
Scope of Planning Effort All municipal facilities and vehicle operations   All municipal facilities and vehicle operations All municipal facilities and vehicle operations
Technical Assistance Offerings Access to statewide contracts for clean energy vendors and consultants
Communities can apply for grants for capacity support from Regional Planning Agencies
Owner’s representative services available for municipalities, tribal nations, cities, towns, counties, and K-12 school districts interested in implementing energy efficiency projects Access to ICLEI resources and free technical and personnel assistance to local governments with GHG emission calculations and creating climate action plan documents

Proposed action items:

  • Draft a description of your proposed program providing a clear picture of the scope and scale, including the number and size of grants that will be available, how grant applications will be reviewed, and what criteria will be used in determining which communities receive grants (assuming demand will exceed supply).


  • Construct a timeline for the program, setting milestones for production of documents, implementation, and if appropriate, close out. A timeline will provide important reference, for planning tasks. It should be updated as appropriate, to provide management with clarity about how interrelated tasks impact each other.