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Energy Disclosure Services

Local Energy Reporting Programs are on the Rise: Be Aware of Your Obligations

April 11, 2019

Many cities across the U.S. have voluntarily implemented policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and they are calling on building owners to help them achieve their goals. Energy use in commercial and industrial buildings contributes significantly to the overall carbon footprint in most cities. For example, the City of Boulder Colorado estimates that 55% of GHG emissions in the city come from commercial/industrial buildings.

A growing number of cities have developed energy disclosure policies that require owners/operators of large buildings to perform annual energy benchmarking to track energy use over time. Some cities have taken this a step further and require building owners to perform more detailed energy audits and take actions to improve energy performance, such as installing energy-efficient lighting. Cities that have implemented these programs have seen improvement in energy use of 2-3% in rated buildings, even without the requirement to perform energy efficiency upgrades. The majority of these cities have begun publishing this data so that potential tenants can compare energy performance between buildings before leasing space. The current list of cities that have implemented local programs are shown below:

Atlanta, GA
Austin, TX
Berkeley, CA
Boston, MA
Boulder, CO
Cambridge, MA
Chicago, IL
District of Columbia
Denver, CO
Des Moines, IA
Edina, MN
Evanston, IL
Fort Collins, CO
Kansas City, MO
Los Angeles, CA

Minneapolis, MN
Montgomery County, MD
New York City, NY
Orlando, FL
Philadelphia, PA
Pittsburgh, PA
Portland, ME
Portland, OR
San Diego, CA
Salt Lake City, UT
San Francisco, CA
Seattle, WA
South Portland, ME
St. Louis, MO

*Please Note: VERTEX is tracking developing city ordinances across the U.S. and many additional cities have programs that are in development. For the most up-to-date information, check with the contacts at the end of this blog.

Energy Disclosure Program Examples

Two examples VERTEX would like to highlight include the City and County of Denver Energy Benchmarking Program and the City of Boulder Building Performance Program.

City and County of Denver Energy Benchmarking Program

The Denver Energy Benchmarking Ordinance was passed in December 2016 and requires annual energy benchmarking of large (>25,000 SF) buildings. The requirements were phased in over time based on building size with the most recent requirement covering buildings between 25,000-50,000 SF, which requires these building owners to report energy consumption annually beginning June 1, 2018. Reports are due June 1 of each year and are reported using the online ENERGY STAR Portfolio Tool. The level of effort for annual reporting is not high for single-tenant office buildings but becomes increasingly complex in buildings with multiple tenants and meters, and in industrial buildings with multiple energy sources. The ordinance gives the Department of Public Health and Environment the authority to issue fines and penalties for non-compliance or late submittals. Denver publishes an online interactive map showing the ENERGY STAR score for all rated buildings that are accessible to the public.

City of Boulder Building Performance Program

The City of Boulder Building Performance Ordinance was passed in October 2015 and takes energy efficiency requirements a step further by requiring building owners to make energy efficiency improvements. The Boulder program also phases in the requirements over time based on building size. The table below shows the phase-in timeline for different building sizes:

RequirementExisting Buildings ≥ 50,000 SF,
New Buildings ≥ 10,000 SF,
City Buildings ≥ 5,000 SF
Existing Buildings ≥ 30,000 SFExisting Buildings ≥ 20,000 SF
Annual Rating and Reporting Begins201620182020
First Energy Assessments Due and Public Disclosure Begins201920212023
Lighting Upgrades Due and First RCx Due202120232025
Implementation of RCx Measures Due202320252027

As shown in the table, all buildings over 20,000 SF will ultimately be included in the program and must begin reporting no later than June 1, 2020. Boulder also requires a more in-depth ASHRAE Level I energy audit to be performed on all affected buildings every 10 years, and this requirement will be phased in between 2019 and 2023 depending upon building size.

Boulder will also require one-time lighting upgrades to comply with specific COBECC and IECC energy codes, and this requirement will phase in between 2021 and 2025 depending upon building size.

Lastly Boulder will require affected building owners to perform retro-commissioning every ten years. Retro-commissioning is a process that improves the efficiency of existing building operations by “tuning up” and calibrating existing functional systems to run as efficiently as possible through low or no-cost improvements. Owners must implement the cost-effective measures (any measure with a payback period of two years or less with rebates) identified through retro-commissioning within two years of the study.

About Energy Savings Programs

While the requirements differ amongst the 25+ cities that have implemented energy reporting and improvement programs, the Denver and Boulder program examples are typical of the range of requirements. These programs all will result in minor, or in some cases significant costs to building owners; however, the goal is to offset any costs through energy savings. Additionally, investment in energy improvements may increase the building value.

One example for improving building marketability and value is the ENERGY STAR Program, which requires an energy audit to evaluate performance and rates buildings with a score between 0 and 100. Existing buildings with a rating of 75 or better may receive ENERGY STAR approval. Many buildings that were constructed in recent years can achieve the required score with little or no energy efficiency improvements. As long as building owners are required to conduct audits to meet local ordinance requirements, they might consider taking a few additional steps to take advantage of this benefit.

How Can VERTEX Help?

VERTEX can assist building owners and operators to comply with local energy reporting requirements across the U.S.  We also perform ASHRAE Level 1 and Level 2 Energy Audits, and ENERGY STAR Certification Audits, and can assist with both the management and implementation of energy improvement projects.

To see if your building is impacted or to learn more about VERTEX’s Energy Disclosure Services, please contact one of the Energy Experts below.

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