With a recently enacted energy benchmarking policy, a host of forward-thinking architecture and design firms, and a rising tide of studies emerging on how the area will deal with climate change and changing sea levels and tides, Boston has its eye on the environment. And, it turns out, on energy efficiency. The Massachusetts hub is the most energy-efficiency city in the country, according to the 2013 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). 

The survey ranked 34 of the most populous cities in the U.S. based on policies to address energy efficiency in the five key areas: local government, community-wide initiatives, buildings, utilities, and transportation.

So who takes home honors in the top 5?

5. Seattle

With a total score of 65.25, Seattle tracks well above the U.S. median score of 43.69 thanks to well-funded electric utility efficiency programs, strong water efficiency measures, energy benchmarking policies, and the latest energy codes for commercial buildings. 

3. San Francisco

The Bay Area's green hub tied with its East Coast counterpart for third with a score of 69.75, and was recognized for a number of best practices including a highlevel of investment in utility efficiency programs, good access to data, policies that encourage efficient buildings, and it's Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance that requires homes to improve efficiency when sold or renovated.

3. New York City

New York's hardly quiet about its climate-related efforts, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Among the best practices here are the energy benchmarking policies under the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan; strong water efficiency measures; strong transit services and funding; and high use of combined heat and power and district energy systems.

2. Portland, Ore.

On track to meet its Climate Action Plan goals and scoring 70 points on the ACEEE scorecard, Portland succeeds with policies that encourage compact development, reduce vehicle trips, and improve land use planning. Moves that might help it overtake Boston: expanding the use of combined heat and power and establishing a large-scale energy benchmarking policy for commercial and residential buildings.

About 1,600 Boston buildings will be affected by the new energy-reporting ordinance.
About 1,600 Boston buildings will be affected by the new energy-reporting ordinance.

1. Boston

What helped Boston top the list with the highest score of 76.75? It's energy-saving goals for local government operations, it's building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance enacted earlier this year, and it's efforts to connect residents with local utilities to partake in energy-saving services.

Click here for an interactive graphic from ACEEE which allows you to drill down into all city scores and specific category scores in the scorecard.