Atlanta adopts policy to reduce commercial energy use, create jobs

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The city of Atlanta announced today that it has adopted a comprehensive energy policy that aims to significantly reduce citywide commercial energy use by establishing a framework for energy performance monitoring and systems maintenance.

Authored by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, the ordinance aims to reduce the city’s energy footprint while creatings jobs. The City projects that the ordinance will drive a 20 percent reduction in commercial energy consumption by the year 2030, spur the creation of more than 1,000 jobs a year in the first few years, and reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent from 2013 levels by 2030.

“Last night’s unanimous vote to pass this important legislation shows that the City of Atlanta and stakeholders are fully invested in making Atlanta a top-tier city for sustainability,” said Mayor Kasim Reed. “We are building on our success with the Better Buildings Challenge to conserve more energy, boost our local economy and cut pollution. This is the right step for the City of Atlanta, and shows our leadership on the national stage.”

Atlanta’s Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance addresses energy use in private and City-owned buildings over 25,000 square feet in size – 2,350 buildings that, as a whole, currently represent 80 percent of the city’s commercial sector. Participating buildings will be phased in, beginning with municipal buildings in 2015 and expanding to include private buildings in 2016.

The City of Atlanta is the largest property owner impacted by the legislation with some 110 building subject to the portfoliorequirements. Already benchmarking its assets, the City is expected to begin performance reporting in the fall of 2015.

“Atlanta is paving the way for other cities to take advantage of the significant environmental and economic benefits that come with making city skylines more energy efficient,” said Melissa Wright, Director of the City Energy Project at Natural Resources Defense Council. “This ordinance is tailor-made for Atlanta, taking best practices from other cities and refining them to meet local needs. It will not only reduce harmful air pollution that threatens public health, but drive local job creation, and help the city and building owners lower their energy bills.”

Under the legislation, building owners of the designated buildings are required to benchmark and report to the City their properties’ energy use annually. Utilizing the data collected, building owners will complete an energy audit once every 10 years. An energy audit is a detailed assessment of how a building could improve its performance through upgrading its equipment and systems. In addition, building performance data collected under the benchmarking initiative will be made transparent to the public to allow the market to recognize, reward, and drive increased demand for high-performing buildings.

“While the Office of Sustainability worked diligently at crafting this policy, what passed today is the result of intense stakeholder engagement with national and local industry leaders,” said Denise Quarles, director of the Office of Sustainability. “The building community played an active role in this discussion, and we are proud that the final legislation reflects a standard that both advocates and the community affected are aligned on.”

The Atlanta Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance is part of the City’s work under the City Energy Project, which is developing locally-tailored plans and programs to create healthier, more prosperous, and more resilient cities by reducing carbon pollution from buildings. Other participants include Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City. By investing in building energy efficiency programs and policies, together the City Energy Project participants are projected to cut up to 7 million tons of carbon emissions annually and save residents and businesses a combined total of nearly $1 billion annually on their energy bills.

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