New building energy regulations moving forward

This morning the Energy and Environment Committee moved forward three new pieces of legislation that address energy efficiency of large non-residential buildings in the city.

As presented by the Office of Sustainability and Environment this morning, here’s the problem:  while the city, as part of its Climate Action Plan has goals for energy use, greenhouse gas intensity of fuels, and overall building emissions.

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The city is doing well on hitting its targets for greenhouse gas fuel intensity and overall emissions, but is missing its target on energy use. Drilling down further, the problem is really commercial buildings:

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Which brings us to the three new ordinances considered today.

The first requires the city to set up a public web site to publish energy efficiency benchmarks for non-residential buildings 50,000 square feet and larger in the city.  The data is already collected by the city, but not published, so this is no new work for building owners. The hope is that by putting that data out in the market it will allow tenants to show preference for energy-efficient buildings and move landlords to take steps to make their buildings “greener.”

The second required privately-owned non-residential buildings to perform an “energy tune-up” every 5 years. Tune-ups are a pretty good deal: they generally result in a 5-20% energy savings, and pay back in 2-3 years. Overall, the city expects to get 5-7% annual energy savings from the commercial sector through this program.

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The tune-ups are phased in over years. There are also exemptions for buildings that have recently had a tune-up, buildings that are already demonstrating high efficiency, and building owners who can show financial hardship.

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The third ordinance requires city-owned buildings to live up to this same standard — in fact, at a faster pace than private commercial buildings.

Three Council members attended the meeting this morning: committee chair Sawant, Juarez and O’Brien.  O’Brien liked the plan but was impatient with the slow phase-in. Juarez asked what external groups were part of the development process for the legislation; the Director’s Report (appendix A) lists the 25 or so stakeholders involved.

The committee voted unanimously to send all three bills to the full Council for approval.

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