Private Sector Outreach Programs


  • Private sector outreach programs are a way for local governments to encourage energy efficiency throughout their community.
  • A successful energy efficiency outreach program combines a clear vision, effective communication, compelling incentives, and productive partnerships.
  • Many Texas communities including El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, and Austin developed helpful resources as part of their private sector energy efficiency outreach programs.

Untapped Potential of Private Sector Outreach Programs

Commercial buildings account for 19% of the energy consumed in the United States. While many local governments are working to reduce energy use in their municipal facilities there is considerable untapped potential for energy efficiency in private commercial development. Several cities have created outreach programs to encourage energy efficiency in commercial buildings through technical support, energy savings challenges, and recognition programs. City efficiency outreach programs can help community members reduce energy costs, celebrate demonstrated leadership, and support city sustainability goals.

Best Practices to Engage Local Businesses

A successful energy efficiency outreach program combines a clear vision, effective communication, compelling incentives, and productive partnerships.

  • Clear Vision: Decide what specific outcomes your local government would like to achieve with your private sector engagement program. Is the goal to celebrate business who already show leadership in energy efficiency or increase energy savings from a current baseline? Work with your target audience to help define what the program hopes to accomplish.
  • Effective Communication: Invest time in developing branding and messaging that is recognizable, appealing, and compelling to participants. Program logos, flyers, websites, social media campaigns, or other communication tools should be perceived as professional, modern, and well-designed. Focus your messaging on what is important to your target audience. Highlight cost savings and waste reduction from energy efficiency initiatives as well as the potential competitive advantage and marketing benefits of sustainability.

Review the Communicating the Value of Energy Efficiency module of the City Efficiency Toolkit for more guidance on effective communication.


  • Meaningful Incentives: Provide recognition and celebrate local success. Press releases, awards, networking events, and co-branding opportunities can provide value to participating companies and encourage them to participate.
  • Productive Partnerships: Coordinate your efforts with existing partners or groups trusted by your target businesses. Rather than reaching out to one business at a time, leverage resources such as your local utility company, councils of government, or business groups to share information with interested parties.

ACEEE - Reducing Energy Waste through Municipally Led Behavior Change Programs

The American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) evaluated 50 behavior change outreach programs across the country in their report Reducing Energy Waste through Municipally Led Behavior Change Programs. Over half of the programs rely on in-person engagement, competitions/games, and education as bedrock outreach strategies. Successful programs target diverse audiences and build in rigorous evaluation measures to ensure program longevity.

The report recommends the following steps for the design and implementation of behavior change outreach programs.

  1. Choose a goal and target behaviors to change.
  2. Conduct preliminary research.
  3. Choose a behavioral strategy.
  4. Design effective materials.
  5. Implement on a small scale.
  6. Evaluate program outcomes.
  7. Improve and scale up.

Ready the full ACEEE report Reducing Energy Waste through Municipally Led Behavior Change Programs for more details.

El Paso's Resilience Ambassador Program

The City of El Paso’s Resilience Ambassadors program helps local businesses reduce energy and water consumption in local businesses while providing job training to residents. The Resilience Ambassador’s Program provided free hands-on sustainability skills training to volunteers, teaching them how to conduct blower door tests, install aerators, apply caulk and weatherstripping, install solar window tinting, perform simple energy audits, and capture HVAC condensation and greywater.

El Paso organized workdays where graduates of the training installed these measures in select local businesses – including a restaurant and a homeless shelter. Participating businesses received the energy and water conservation upgrades free of charge and volunteers received training they could put on their resumes for the future.

Read the full El Paso Resilience Ambassadors case study.

Fort Worth's Better buildings Challenge

The City of Fort Worth has a long history of conserving energy in its municipal buildings and in 2012, Fort Worth decided to extend savings to local businesses. The City partnered with the US Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge to reduce building energy and water consumption in Fort Worth’s municipal, commercial, and industrial buildings 20% by 2020.

When private sector partners join the Fort Worth Better Buildings Challenge by committing to 20% energy efficiency and water reduction goals, they receive support including a free water audit, benchmarking assistance, guidance on potential efficiency projects, and opportunities for public recognition. Service providers can participate in the program by becoming a program ally and provide resources and guidance to partners to help them achieve the savings goals.

The Better Buildings website provides further details on Fort Worth’s model and tools developed to support partners including:

Houston Green Office Challenge

Green Office Challenges are a fun way for local governments to engage their business community through friendly competition to achieve energy savings, and provide networking and recognition opportunities.

The City of Houston’s Green Office Challenge (HGOC) engaged two segments – commercial office tenants and property owners/managers. Office tenants are often left out of energy efficiency retrofits since the landlord controls large energy using equipment but building occupants can control up to 80% of energy use in commercial buildings. Houston’s Green Office challenge engaged these segments through an interactive online dashboard, and the city provided training, events, and resources to help participants achieve their savings goals.

Although the challenge ended in 2016 the Better Buildings website houses further details on the Houston Green Office Challenge and helpful tools developed to support partners including:

Austin Green Business Leaders

The Austin Green Business Leaders (AGBL) program similarly celebrates demonstrated sustainability leadership in seven categories: Communication & Outreach, Resource Management, Water, Energy, Healthy Work Environment, Transportation, and Community Stewardship. Participants accrue points and are awarded Silver, Gold, or Platinum level certification. Currently, the program has 247 members from 10 different categories of businesses, representing over 42,000 employees and over 19 million square feet of green office space.

A Green Business Resources document provides detailed resources for each AGBL credit including:

Need additional assistance? SPEER provides LED street lighting technical assistance to local governments.  Contact SPEER and we can help you begin your LED retrofit project.