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Energy ordinance empowers building owners and tenants

The Kansas City MO City Council is making it easier for building owners to identify utility cost savings and for renters to estimate energy costs on large commercial buildings.

With a 12-1 vote last week and the support of more than 30 local organizations, the council enacted the Energy Empowerment Ordinance. It will require owners of privately owned buildings of more than 100,000 square feet to collect energy and water consumption data and report it by May 1, 2017 using a free benchmarking tool called ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. By May 1, 2018, buildings with more than 50,000 square feet would also be required to report.

Initially, the ordinance requires Kansas City’s municipal government buildings of more than 10,000 square feet to report by May 1, 2016.

“I want Kansas City to be known as an energy-efficient town,” said Mayor Sly James. “Energy efficiency not only saves money; it helps improve the air we breathe, making Kansas City a better place to live.”

Eventually, the new ordinance will affect about 1,500 of the 50,000 privately owned buildings in the city. Currently, about 26 percent of local buildings that would be affected by the ordinance are already using the ENERGY STAR benchmarking program, but they are not required to publicly disclose the information.

“Energy efficiency can reduce utility costs for everyday working families in Kansas City,” said Councilman Scott Taylor, co-sponsor of the ordinance and co-chair of the City Energy Project Advisory Committee. “By saving a working mom with two children or a senior on a fixed income $30 to $40 a month by reducing their utility costs, this ordinance will make a difference.”

Kansas City is among the first cities in the country to require energy reporting. It joins 13 other municipalities, including Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

“Kansas City is the recognized regional leader among cities in the Heartland of the U.S. who are promoting energy efficiency. Mayor James and our City Council realize that energy efficiency will make our community more resilient to the impacts of climate change, and it is a cost-effective way to reduce energy use, save money on utility bills, and create local jobs in Kansas City,” said Dennis Murphey, the city’s chief environmental officer.

Several major property owners supported the mandate citing the energy cost savings that can come from knowing about energy inefficiencies in a building. The ordinance does not require energy-efficiency improvements, but an Environmental Protection Agency study shows a 2 percent decrease in energy use each year in buildings that benchmark with Portfolio Manager and report their results. Of the 35,000 buildings nationwide using the benchmarking tool from 2008 to 2011, the average building improved its energy efficiency by 7 percent.

In addition to energy savings, cities that have required energy benchmarking also report local job growth in the energy-efficiency job sector.

“There are 40,000 clean energy jobs currently in Missouri,” said Ashok Gupta, senior energy economist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The Energy Empowerment Ordinance will create even more jobs here in Kansas City. It will put people to work like electricians, HVAC technicians, architects and engineers.”

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