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Universal public disclosure is one of the main differentiators of Washington, D.C.’s energy use benchmarking legislation. Benchmarking is not the primary focus of The Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008, but it nevertheless amends the Green Building Act of 2006 to require all eligible buildings to benchmark their energy use annually through Portfolio Manager and publicly post their rating on an online database.
The act, enacted August 2008, has a phase-in schedule, with full participation by 2013. Already, 10 government buildings have started benchmarking using Portfolio Manager and have posted their data. As of October 2009, all District-owned or operated buildings of at least 10,000 gross square feet and of a building type available in Portfolio Manager are required to benchmark. Private buildings of 200,000 square feet or more will have to benchmark by December 2010. Each year following, the area threshold will drop by 50,000 square feet until 2013, when buildings of 50,000 square feet or more will have to benchmark.
Energy use data will be made public upon the second annual benchmarking. In addition, new construction or substantial renovations will have to model their energy performance with the ENERGY STAR Target Finder and be benchmarked annually, as long as the building is at least 50,000 square feet, and also disclose the data publicly. Target Finder establishes expected energy performance ratings, based on a project’s modeled energy use.
Creating transparency through public disclosure is important to getting all the parties involved in a building’s energy efficiency to work together, says Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation, which helped to shape the legislation.
“We want market transformation, a transparent accountable market where energy efficiency is tied to the value of the building. It’s important for potential clients and tenants to see for themselves,” he says.
In addition to shedding light on a valuable building metric for the public’s benefit, public disclosure also provides incentive to embrace energy efficiency measures. It’s been an economic mystery why energy efficiency hasn’t been invested in when it provides a greater return than many other investments, says Majersik. The reasons have been a lack of information disclosure, a lack of incentive or alignment of incentives and a lack or recognition.
This legislation changes that, Majersik says. “At the end of the day, it’s hard to argue against disclosure. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
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