Kimi Narita, Director of Strategic Engagement, City Energy Project, Santa Monica, CA
2015 was an exciting year to work on local sustainability issues, particularly climate change and energy efficiency. During the Paris talks in early December, more than 400 mayors convened to share their stories about fighting climate change. The Paris agreement, signed by nearly 200 countries, will have to be carried out at the local – the city – level.
And the City Energy Project has been doing our part. The City Energy Project is a national initiative to create healthier and more prosperous American cities by improving the energy efficiency of buildings. We work in partnership with mayors and their staff to develop and implement energy efficiency solutions that make sense locally. The ten City Energy Project cities are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City (MO), Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Salt Lake City.
The end of 2015 has been a busy period for cities in the Project. Here are a few things they’ve been working on:
Houston became the first Texas city to adopt a commercial PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program on November 4, 2015. PACE is financing that enables Houston owners of commercial, industrial and residential properties with five or more units to obtain low-cost, long-term loans for water conservation, energy-efficiency, and renewable retrofits. In exchange for funds provided by a private lender, the property owner voluntarily requests that the local government place an assessment secured with a senior lien on the property until the assessment is paid in full.
After an extensive stakeholder engagement process spanning over six months, the Los Angeles city council voted to move forward on an energy and water efficiency ordinance for existing buildings throughout Los Angeles in late November.The Energy and Environment Committee directed the L.A. Department of Building and Safety to work with the City Attorney to draft an ordinance requiring building owners to measure, report, and reduce their energy and water consumption. The benefits of such an ordinance would include drastically reducing the carbon emissions of the city, a priority of Mayor Eric Garcetti, who unveiled the Los Angeles Climate Action Report in early December. The report shows that Los Angeles has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent since the 1990 baseline, but the city still has about halfway to go to achieve the 2025 target of reducing emissions by 45 percent.
On December 3, 2015, the City and County of Denver announced the new Energize Denver initiative, which aims to improve the energy efficiency of commercial and multi-family buildings in Denver by 10 percent by the end of 2020 and double that in the following decade. The Energize Denver initiative will start with the formation of the Energize Denver Task Force, which will bring together key stakeholders in 2016 to evaluate building efficiency programs and policies that will help Denver become a globally competitive leader in energy efficiency. Based on the taskforce’s work, the City will develop and implement new building efficiency programs and policies in order to unlock billions of dollars in savings and benefits.
The City of Philadelphia recently announced the results of energy and water usage reporting for nearly 1,900 of its largest buildings. This is particularly exciting because both 2013 and 2014 data are now available in a user-friendly map-format. The benchmarking data shows that Philadelphia buildings earned a median ENERGY STAR score of 59 for energy efficiency, nine points higher than the national median of 50, but down from a median score of 63 last year. Without the benchmarking data, these kinds of performance trends would not be known. But with this knowledge, more targeted energy efficiency investment in many of the city’s largest buildings can occur.
The City of Chicago released its second annual Energy Benchmarking Report on December 16, 2015. This year the City also released an infographic, published information on approximately 250 of the its largest buildings on the Chicago Data Portal, and launched a new website in partnership with City Energy Project where users can interact with this building energy performance data. The report states that improving energy efficiency in these buildings could reduce energy use up to 24 percent, save up to $184 million in energy costs, create as many as 2,000 jobs, and cut carbon pollution equivalent to removing 306,000 cars from the road. Notably, the buildings that shared energy data for the second consecutive year showed a slight decrease in site energy use.
2015 has been an amazing year for city leadership on climate change and energy efficiency. But things will only get better. The City Energy Project has received a generous new round of funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Kresge Foundation, and Doris Duke Charitable Foundations that will allow us to help more U.S. cities tackle climate change and become more resilient by improving energy efficiency in buildings. 2016 will bring only more exciting and innovative advancements in this field. Bring on the New Year.