Energy disclosure and benchmarking has finally pushed its way inland in the U.S. Beginning in 2014, Minneapolis will be the first city in the Midwest to require large commercial buildings to report their energy and water use annually.
Laws like the one just enacted in Minneapolis are fairly standard in much of Western Europe, but have just gained steam in U.S. states and cities in recent years. New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Austin, Washington state and California have similar legislation on the books.
In Minneapolis, commercial buildings account for about one-third of the greenhouse gas pollution in the city. One study found that requiring energy benchmarking could save about 7 percent.
Like New York City, private commercial buildings will need to not only report Energy Star scores to the city, but also publicly disclose them. Also like many other municipalities with similar laws, the city itself is leading by example. Minneapolis will disclose water and energy use in city buildings larger than 25,000 square feet beginning this year. Commercial buildings will have to file scores beginning in June of 2014 or 2015, depending on the size of the building.
“This kind of transparency builds on our strengths in Minneapolis around energy efficiency,” Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, author of the ordinance and chair of the Regulatory, Energy and Environment Committee, said in statement. “Other cities’ experiences with disclosure requirements are showing that they will result in lower energy costs for businesses.”
To encourage businesses to take it one step further, the city will offer loans and rebates for retrofits.
“This ordinance acknowledges that buildings have a tremendous impact on greenhouse gas pollution,” Mayor R.T. Rybak said in a statement. “The long-term intent is to work toward City targets around reducing greenhouse gas pollution while supporting the potential for energy savings, local economic activity and local green jobs.”
Disclosure laws are increasingly coming to cities where LEED, green leases and cleantech are not already hot topics, such as Philadelphia. Bringing legislation that requires large building owners to at least acknowledge their building’s energy use will be an important first step to achieve Obama’s recent call for America to cut its energy use in buildings in half.
Philadelphia is also home to the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub, a U.S. Department of Energy innovation cluster that wants to bring efficiency to not just the well-heeled class-A office space, but to average buildings (in average cities) too.
In Minneapolis, the bill passed unanimously, according to Andrew Burr, director of the Building Energy Rating Program for Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), a nonprofit that works to promote energy efficiency and green building. There are about five others cities in the Midwest contemplating similar laws, and the process in Minneapolis could even influence other regions -- including the Southeast and Texas. “This is very much a bellwether for noncoastal cities,” he said. “I think it’s very significant.”