Progress in Energy and Carbon Management in Large U.S. Metropolitan Areas

Significance Statement

Most emissions in the US cities are the result of energy consumption in buildings and transport. This paper estimates the energy and carbon management for residential and commercial sectors in the 100 most-populated metropolitan cities in the United States. The studied cities produce 72% of US GDP and house 65% of the US population. The conclusion of this study is that energy efficiency is improving in the largest metropolitan cities in the United States and carbon emissions are falling. Good management can even result in further reduction of US CO2 emission levels.


About the author

Marilyn A. Brown is the Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Public Policy. She is a Presidential appointee to the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, and she is a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for co-authorship of the IPCC report on Mitigation of Climate Change. Her fifth book was published by Praeger in 2015 (Green Savings: How Markets and Policies Drive Energy Efficiency).

Contact information:
Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems
School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology
DM Smith Building, Room 312, 685 Cherry Street, Atlanta, GA 30332-0345
[email protected],  Phone: 404-385-0303
Climate and Energy Policy Lab:

About the author


Matt Cox is the Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of the Greenlink Group, an energy, climate, and water research and consulting firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. His research on energy efficiency, renewables, and water has received awards from Georgia Tech and MIT and informed policy discussions at the local, state, national, and international level.

Contact Information:
Matt Cox, PhD
Founder, CTO
The Greenlink Group  , 565 Harold Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30309 
[email protected], cell: 937-329-0311

Journal Reference

Energy Procedia, Volume 75, 2015, Pages 2957-2962.

Marilyn A. Brown1, Matt Cox2 

Show Affiliations
  1. Georgia Institute of Technology
  2. City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Sustainability


More than 1000 cities in the United States have signed the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement, yet few have created comprehensive estimates of their energy consumption and carbon emissions footprints. In this paper, we provide estimates of both of these measures for residential and commercial buildings in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. over the 2000-2010 period. This tracks the progress towards sustainable development in major urban areas nationally, identifying leaders and laggards, as well as opportunities for improvement. This research also offers real-world policy relevance for energy efficiency efforts in the urban areas where the vast majority of U.S. GDP is produced.

Go To Energy Procedia

Figure 1: Metros with the Least (Houston) and Most (Durham) Improved Buildings Energy Footprints

Energy Carbon Management


Figure 2: Metros with the Least (Orlando) and Most (Philadelphia) Improved Buildings Carbon Footprints

Progress Energy Carbon Management in Large U.S. Metropolitan Areas 2- renewable energy global innovations

Using “bubble charts,” Figures 1 and 2 highlight the trajectory of four cities, from 2001 to 2010. The backdrop of bubbles are the 2010 energy and carbon dioxide footprints of all 100 metro areas in the U.S. Over that decade, Houston had the largest increase in its buildings energy footprints, and Durham experienced the greatest improvement. When carbon footprints are graphed, the patterns change reflecting the carbon intensity of the electricity consumed in urban areas. Orlando experienced the largest increase in its buildings carbon footprints, while Philadelphia saw the greatest improvement.These graphs reflect the  importance of local action and partnerships with electric utilities, which are highlighted in greater detail in our Applied Energy paper on “Progress in Energy and Carbon Management in Large U.S. Metropolitan Areas.”

Check Also


Bio-Inspired Modeling for H2 Production