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New Orleans is the ‘most improved’ city for clean energy, new report says

A portion of the protected bike lane on MacArthur Boulevard in Algiers.
Carly Berlin
A portion of the protected bike lane on MacArthur Boulevard in Algiers.

New Orleans jumped 28 places to reach 39th, making it the most improved city on the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s recent City Clean Energy Scorecard.

The council scores 75 major cities across the United States based on their adoption of clean energy plans, programs and policies.

According to the report, New Orleans moved up because it took actions to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our substantial improvement in the City Clean Energy Scorecard rankings demonstrates our commitment to achieving the ambitious climate goals set forth in New Orleans’ Climate Action Plan,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell in a statement.

Some of the changes that bumped up the city’s score include successfully advocating for the state to adopt more efficient energy codes for buildings and requiring electric vehicle charging stations for most new developments.

“In moving up in these rankings, New Orleans is finally getting some of the recognition it deserves for years of policy progress,” said Logan Burke, the executive director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy. “But the scorecard makes it really clear that we have a long way to go, which I think anyone who pays a utility bill is aware of.”

The report also says New Orleans is still not on track to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goal.

“Obviously, we had quite a bit of room to grow here and I think we are happy to have achieved the growth, but we have our sights set on something higher,” said Greg Nichols, the city’s deputy resilience officer.

He said the Office of Resilience and Sustainability has grown significantly from when it started with just two full-time employees. Now it has 11, which will allow it to do a lot more, he said, including taking on projects that could further improve its score, such as solar panels and resilience hubs.

Nichols added that the city’s second Climate Action Plan, passed in 2022, focuses more on equity than the previous one.

He said the city is also working on a building performance standard ordinance, which would require building owners to report on their relative efficiency. New Orleans would be the first in the South to have one — if Atlanta doesn't pass one first.

Nichols also said state-level politics are making it difficult for the city to accomplish some of its goals. For example, a law passed in 2020 that made it illegal for the city to ban natural gas, making it harder for the city to regulate methane pollution in buildings.

“We're going to have to be really careful around the messaging and how we do that legally here. It's certainly going to be a tricky tightrope for us to walk,” he said.

Some of the recommendations the ACEEE makes for New Orleans to improve its score include expanding the city’s bike network, adopting a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting and setting goals for reducing vehicle mileage.

Burke said New Orleans is uniquely positioned to make some of these changes due to the city’s eligibility for federal funding and the Office of Resilience and Sustainability’s willingness to apply for those dollars. That can be amplified by City Council’s ability to regulate utilities.

“This is right here right now an opportunity for City Council and the administration to work together to make people's lives better,” Burke said.

She said that the Alliance for Affordable Energy wants to see City Council focus on protecting low-income communities from extreme weather, particularly heat, through housing improvements.

“I hope that this actually encourages the city and the City Council to lean into the recommendations that the scorecard makes,” she said, “because a ranking or a scorecard is only worth what benefits and value the policies bring to the people who are living in that city.”

Eva Tesfaye covers the environment for WWNO's Coastal Desk. You can reach her at