Salt Lake City Asks Building Owners to Track Energy Efficiency

energy efficiency benchmarking in Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City tries energy benchmarking to encourage building owners to pay attention to their energy consumption.

In late August, the Salt Lake City City Council voted in favor of the Energy Benchmarking & Transparency Ordinance. Proposed by Mayor Jackie Biskupski and the Sustainability Department, the ordinance looks to cut energy costs, improve local air quality, and reduce the city’s carbon footprint.

According to the Sustainability Department, it is “projected to save local buildings owners $15.8 million in annual energy costs and eliminate over 29 tons of criteria pollutants from Salt Lake City’s air” annually. “This ordinance has been in the works for over a year,” says Mayor Biskupski. “Over that time, it’s been a case study in collaborative policy making and I want to thank all the stakeholders involved.”

The ordinance requires all commercial buildings above 25,000 square feet to benchmark and report their energy consumption to Salt Lake City on an annual basis using the free online Energy Star Portfolio Manager software (with automation services made possible through local utilities Rocky Mountain Power and Dominion Energy). To minimize the burden on buildings, the ordinance will roll out over a staggered timeline:

o Salt Lake City municipal buildings benchmark and report their ENERGY STAR score in 2018. (The City
has already started benchmarking.)
o Commercial buildings 50,000 square feet and larger benchmark and report in May 2019
o Commercial buildings 25,000 square feet and larger benchmark and report in May 2020

The new requirement is also supported by incentives and technical assistance. Energy Star-certifiable buildings (those with a score of 75 and higher) will automatically be a contender at the annual Skyline Challenge Awards, an event that honors the top energy-efficiency leaders in Utah. In addition to the energy-efficiency resources available from local utilities, the ordinance will also create a resource center, housed in the Salt Lake City Sustainability Department, to help building managers understand the range of tools and incentives available to voluntarily upgrade equipment to reduce costs and prevent pollution.

The elongated time period for passage is due in part to pushback from legislators, businesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The ordinance, as originally proposed, would have published the energy scores of all buildings. It also would have required improvements. Places of worship and tax-exempt buildings were also able to successfully lobby for exemption from the benchmarking requirement. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Utah was involved with the legislative process, but ultimately remained opposed to the ordinance, staying consistent with their nationwide opposition to such requirements. There is also some concern that the state legislature will nullify this ordinance.

Meanwhile, the City is moving forward with this increasingly utilized measurement methodology. “This ordinance requires certain buildings to undertake mandatory measurement of their energy use and report it to the City,” says Vicki Bennett, Director of the Sustainability Department. “That is all. It’s then up to building owners and managers to decide if they want to make voluntary energy efficiency improvements that will save them money. We think they will after seeing the dollars and cents they’ll save.”

Click here for more info on the ordinance.