How Many "Miles-Per-Gallon" Does Your Building Get?

In Stamford, A Discussion On Tracking Energy Usage.

Image
Energy consumption isn't often made public, but that could change.
A Connecticut bill would have required some building owners to track and disclose their energy consumption. Photo:Невідомий (Wikimedia Commons)
Rating Buildings By Their Energy Use
Download Audio
Audio Playlist
Rating Buildings By Their Energy Use

Business leaders, policymakers, and advocates gathered in Stamford for a two-day summit on energy efficiency this week. High up on the agenda was finding a way to encourage businesses to track their own energy usage so they can reduce their emissions and save money. 

You probably know how many miles per gallon your car gets. But what about a similar kind of rating for the building you work in? Or the building you live in? Most of us have no idea, and it would be pretty hard to find out.

“It’s not provided anywhere in the country that I’m aware of," said Dan Esty, Commissioner of Connecticut's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. According to Esty, before Governor Dannel Malloy took office, the state had no clue what its utility bill was. That’s changing – slowly.

“Prior to Governor Malloy we didn’t even know where all our buildings were," Esty said. "Now have gotten the data on our energy bills building by building.”

Still, that information isn’t public. There was a bill on the table this year in Connecticut that would have required some buildings to track their energy use and to disclose it. But it didn’t have much success.

"Eventually it got amended down to focus just on commercial buildings, and then it got amended further to focus just on public buildings," said Jim O’Reilly, who is public policy director for Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships. The bill ultimately never came to a vote.  

New York City is one of a very few places in the U.S. that makes energy data for its own buildings available to anyone, and by 2013, residential as well as nonresidential buildings in the city will have to follow suit. The hope is that if businesses, landowners, and tenants know how much energy they’re using and have to disclose that to the public, they’ll have more incentive to use less of it, by, say, turning the lights off when everyone at the office goes home. And while  these requirements will cost money upfront, they should save money in the longterm and create jobs.

"How about taking those people and giving them good jobs in the clean energy economy that allows them to do things like rating and benchmarking and auditing?" O'Reilly asked.

The Institute for Market Transformation, a research firm in Washington, D.C., estimates that 60,000 new jobs can be created by 2020 if the U.S. had a national policy on energy benchmarking for buildings.

This story is the result of a reporting partnership between WNPR and the Connecticut Mirror. Read more at ctmirror.org.