About the Regional Indicators Initiative


Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 calls for cutting the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 15 percent below 2005 base levels by 2015, 30 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2050. Despite reduction efforts, Minnesota missed its 2015 milestone and will miss the 2025 goal without additional work. To support and augment statewide efforts, Minnesota needs its communities to take targeted action to reduce emissions and drive change. The Regional Indicators Initiative (RII) provides local government elected officials, staff, and community members with city-wide data and tools to inform their climate planning and action. It supports defining a baseline, tracking a business-as-usual trajectory, establishing targets, and measuring outcomes of strategy implementation at a city-wide scale. The project collects the following data that reflect the activities of the people who live, work, learn, travel, visit, and play within each city’s geographical boundaries:


Annual data is collected for four primary indicators:


Electricity, natural gas, and other heating fuels used within city boundaries - separated between residential and commercial/industrial use
SOURCE:    Utilities, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
UNIT:           Million British thermal units (MMBtu)


Municipal potable water consumption within city boundaries - separated between residential and commercial/industrial use
SOURCE:    Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
UNIT:           Gallons


On-road distance traveled by all vehicles within city boundaries
SOURCE:    Minnesota Department of Transportation
UNIT:           Vehicle miles traveled (VMT)


Municipal solid waste generated within city boundaries (estimated from county-wide totals) - separated by management method (landfill, incineration, or recycling)
SOURCE:    Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
UNIT:           Short tons (tons)

The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and costs associated with each of these indicators are also calculated, providing a common metric to compare the economic and environmental impacts of the indicators.


GHG emissions are calculated in accordance with the U.S. Community Protocol for Accounting and Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions developed by ICLEI. The U.S. Community Protocol accounts for the six internationally recognized GHGs that directly impact the climate (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexaflouride), which can be converted into carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) based on their relative global warming potential. 
UNIT:    Carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e)


The retail costs to the consumer.  In the case of electricity, natural gas, and other stationary fuels, the estimates include the average retail costs for all of the consumption costs and related fees.  For vehicle miles traveled, the assessments include the average statewide costs for the fuel only, not the full costs of driving.  For waste management, the costs are statewide averages of the total retail service costs and fees for the various waste management methods.

Each of the data sets can be viewed using per capita, per job, and per household normalizations, enabling comparison between cities and over time. Caution should be taken when making direct comparisons between cities, however, as many other variables can impact the results.

For more information regarding the data sources and methodology used for calculations, see the RII methodology document


RII began in 2010 with the notion that a GreenStep city accomplishing 14 of 28 items on a checklist of sustainability best practices is only part of the process; understanding how we know we have “moved the needle” was a critical missing component.

As it was unknown at the time if it was possible to collect city-wide sustainability metrics, RII began as an experiment, collecting energy, water, travel, and waste data for three Minnesota communities. With sustained effort since 2010, the program has expanded to serve nearly half of the state's population and the RII team has learned how to work with cities, energy utilities, state and federal agencies, and a plethora of data sources to efficiently collect and provide data and tools to Minnesota communities.

RII development, data collection, and maintenance has primarily been funded by federal and state government support and philanthropic grants. This has led to varying levels of completeness of data as some funders have prioritized energy data over other indicators and some priority has been given to GreenStep cities who have achieved a certain step. When not covered through other sources, several cities have elected to self-fund their data collection.

An additional factor affecting data completeness is the level of cooperation by energy utilities. RII continues to explore strategies to improve energy data access as well as methodologies for data estimation to make it possible for more cities to make use of these data and tools.

A long-term goal of RII is to provide all cities and counties in Minnesota with all indicators tracked annually to measure progress toward city-, region-, and state-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction. Achieving this goal will require sustained financial support to maintain and enhance RII’s quality and value to communities. The RII team continually works toward long-term institutionalization of this successful program.


Local action is critical to addressing the global climate crisis. RII provides data and tools to help Minnesota communities take necessary action. Over time, RII has evolved from an emphasis on sustainability metrics to tracking greenhouse gas emissions. A differentiator from other GHG reporting platforms is RII's ongoing support for reporting on primary metrics (BTU, VMT, etc.) to track changes due to efficiency vs. other types of decarbonization.

RII's purpose is to provide data and tools for community climate action that:

  • Deepen cities' understanding of opportunities to save energy and money
  • Promote a public understanding of cities' impact on climate change
  • Improve cities' competitiveness for federal and state funding opportunities
  • Inform cities' analyses, plans, and policy decisions
  • Enable cities to track their progress over time - connecting policies and best practices to actual outcomes


Minnesota Department of Commerce
U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
McKnight Foundation
LHB, Inc.
Great Plains Institute
Metropolitan Council
Urban Land Institute MN

Project Lead

LHB, Inc.



ORANGE Environmental, LLC
Great Plains Institute
University of Minnesota Center for Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy
University of Minnesota Energy Transition Lab
ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability