Boston Mandates Energy Benchmarking

by | May 9, 2013

BostonMayor Menino’s Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance was approved yesterday by the Boston City Council in a 9-4 vote.

The ordinance requires large commercial and residential buildings to report and disclose their energy and water usage and greenhouse gas emissions in order to encourage investment in energy efficiency.

The ordinance, which will cover approximately 1,600 buildings in Boston, requires all commercial buildings over 35,000 square feet and all residential buildings over 35 units to annually report whole-building energy and water use. As a component of the City’s Climate Action Plan to meet Mayor Menino’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, the ordinance will encourage building owners to participate in Renew Boston and local utility energy efficiency programs including a variety of incentives and rebates, and educate tenants on building performance.

Boston joins seven other major cities that have adopted similar ordinances including New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis and Philadelphia.

Boston’s ordinance, as in these other cities, requires that buildings report their energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions through EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager to the City of Boston Environment Department. The City will then make energy and water use per square foot, Energy Star ratings, greenhouse gas emissions, and other identifying and contextual information for individual buildings available to the public online.

The City of Boston’s Environment and Energy Services is working with local utilities to help develop a process that simplifies whole building data collection and reporting to ensure ease of compliance. If individual residential tenant data is unavailable to the building owner, the City of Boston will develop a proxy for building owners to use for their reporting.

The City of Boston, itself, will annually disclose its energy and water use for all of its facilities starting with 2012 building data to be released in the coming weeks.

Over the next four years, the ordinance will be phased in as follows:

  • Non-residential buildings 50,000 square feet or more in 2014
  • Residential buildings with 50 units or more in 2015
  • Non-residential buildings 35,000 square feet or more in 2016
  • Residential buildings with 35 units or more in 2017

In addition to reporting energy and water use, some buildings are required to conduct energy assessments or other evaluations every five years to identify opportunities for energy efficiency investments. Buildings in the top tier of energy performance, those that are already taking significant efficiency actions, or those that meet other exemption criteria will be exempt from this requirement.

Some opponents to mandatory benchmarking in Boston earlier this year commissioned a report by an environmental economist at Harvard University who studied experiences in other cities with similar programs and found that any energy savings are likely to be negligible from the benchmarking.

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