Mayor Biskupski Sends Proposed Energy Efficiency and Air Quality to City Council

As part of Salt Lake City’s commitment to pursuing cost-effective measures to reduce air pollution, Mayor Jackie Biskupski transmitted to the City Council an energy benchmarking and tune-up ordinance for large commercial buildings, which the Council will consider today during their work session. 

The proposed market-based ordinance would eliminate over 98 tons of criteria pollutants from Salt Lake City’s air each year by phasing-in new requirements for buildings over 25,000 square feet to “benchmark” their energy usage annually, using the EPA’s free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software, followed by energy “tune-ups” for low-performing buildings.

Benchmarking allows building owners and managers to identify if their buildings are good candidates for efficiency improvements to reduce energy waste—and therefore air pollution. The free Portfolio Manager® program also gives buildings an energy score from 1 to 100, with anything 75 or over considered to be high-performing.

Buildings would then report their ENERGY STAR score to Salt Lake City. 

"This is a market-based approach,” said Mayor Biskupski. “It’s very similar to a fuel economy rating on cars. Creating transparency around buildings’ energy performance enables tenants, as well as building owners and managers, to prioritize efficiency, and promotes the more efficient buildings across the City.”

Certain buildings with lower energy scores that are also eligible for utility-sponsored energy efficiency incentives would then be required to “tune-up” building energy systems under the ordinance—which means optimizing a building’s systems (i.e. scheduling lights to turn off when people leave the building or re-programming HVAC systems to avoid simultaneous heating and cooling). The ordinance does not require more costly upgrades or replacement of building energy systems allowing owners to voluntarily choose to invest in energy efficiency.

“Today it is virtually impossible for businesses like mine to know how much energy commercial buildings use,” said Hanko Kiesnner, CEO of the locally-based company Packsize International. “Enhancing energy transparency helps to close the information gap and provides commercial tenants with the power to make leasing and investment decisions that incorporate information about operating costs of buildings.”

Cities across the country, including Denver, Atlanta, and Kansas City, have adopted similar ordinances to increase transparency and reduce energy waste.

In Salt Lake City, promoting energy efficient buildings not only saves money and energy—it’s also important for improving air quality.

“Curbing pollution from area sources is one of the most tangible ways Salt Lake City can clean up our air,” said Mayor Biskupski. “Our homes and buildings will soon outpace even the transportation sector to become our largest sources of pollution over the coming years. This ordinance is a common sense measure to begin addressing those emissions.”

According to the Department of Environmental Quality, area sources currently contribute 39 percent of the air pollution in the Salt Lake valley on a given winter day.  Commercial buildings make up 10 percent of that, emitting six tons per day of nitrogen oxide (or NOx], one of the main air pollutants contributing to our valley’s wintertime air pollution problem). Analysis from Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability and the non-profit City Energy Project show that a benchmarking and tune-up ordinance would reduce NOx emissions by at least 98 tons per year, with more gains to be realized if building owners voluntarily install new equipment.

The timeline for complying with the ordinance is staggered, with Salt Lake City municipal buildings benchmarking and reporting their ENERGY STAR score in 2017, followed by commercial buildings 50,000 square feet and larger in 2018, and buildings 25,000 square feet and larger in 2019.

Rocky Mountain Power and Questar Gas have further developed resources to automate the benchmarking process.

In addition to the resources available from our local utilities, the ordinance would 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. 

Finally, the City will continue its voluntary recognition program of outstanding commercial buildings; this year, in partnership with the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. “Our Project Skyline participants are leading the industry with their commitment to clean air and energy efficiency,” said Mayor Biskupski.  “With this new ordinance, we’re looking forward to helping Salt Lake City’s other large commercial buildings do the same.”

The City has engaged a diverse range of stakeholders on this proposed ordinance for over a year. Two additional stakeholder meetings have been scheduled for January 24 and February 1.

For more information on Elevate Buildings, please visit: www.slcgreen.com/elevatebuildings

For an op-ed on the benefits of the ordinance by A. Scott Anderson, visit: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865670918/Is-your-building-part-of-the-pollution-problem-Time-to-find-out.html