Two energy policy items on the Ann Arbor city council’s March 17, 2014 agenda received action at the council’s meeting.
First, the council directed the city’s energy office to draft a commercial building energy benchmarking and disclosure ordinance. It’s an effort to help achieve goals in the city’s climate action plan. That succeeded on a 7-3 vote. Dissenting were Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Jack Eaton (Ward 4) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5). Sally Petersen (Ward 2) was absent.
Second, the council directed the city administrator to “report back to council by May 5, 2014 with a plan to make significant progress on creating and implementing additional community energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy programs that further the Climate Action Plan’s adopted targets, reduce our community GHG emissions, provide economic benefit to our community and help to preserve our quality of life.”
The original resolution would have given explicit direction to hire an additional staff member for the city’s energy office, bringing the total back to two people, according to the resolution. The energy office staffer would “create and implement additional community energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy programs that further the Climate Action Plan’s adopted targets.” Among the specific efforts cited in the resolution are the city’s property assessed clean energy (PACE) program.
However, the resolution was amended at the meeting so that the city administrator would only be directed to provide a report back to the council on how the goals of the city’s sustainability framework could be realized. The resolution succeeded on a 6-4 vote. Dissenting were Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), Jane Lumm (Ward 2), Jack Eaton (Ward 4) and Mike Anglin (Ward 5).
At its March 4, 2014 meeting, the city’s planning commission passed a resolution in support of the hiring. Planning commissioners were briefed on the issue by Wayne Appleyard, chair of the energy commission. Appleyard attended the March 17 council meeting, but was not asked to address the council. Resolutions of support were also passed by the city’s energy and environmental commissions.
The resolution on the energy disclosure ordinance directs the city’s energy commission and staff to convene a stakeholder work group, with the support of the city attorney’s office, to draft a commercial building energy benchmarking and disclosure ordinance. Such an ordinance would require owners of commercial buildings to disclose data on energy consumption by their buildings. It’s an effort to help achieve goals in the city’s climate action plan, which was approved by the city council at its Dec. 17, 2012 meeting. Ann Arbor’s climate action plan calls for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 8% by 2015, 25% by 2025, and 90% by 2050. Baseline for the reductions are 2000 levels.
The energy disclosure resolution on the council’s March 17 agenda originated with the city’s energy commission. The staff memo compares the idea of a disclosure requirement for energy usage by commercial buildings to a miles-per-gallon rating for vehicles or nutritional facts labeling for food products. According to the memo, awareness of energy consumption has been shown to encourage building owners to have energy audits done on their buildings. Those audits can then lead to energy efficiency upgrades that result in cost savings to the building owners and reduced emissions.
An estimate for the potential energy cost savings that would result from an energy benchmarking ordinance in Ann Arbor – prepared by the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) – is between $2 million and $2.5 million, annually. According to the staff memo, similar ordinances in place in other cities typically employed a phased approach, often with municipal buildings as well as the largest private buildings (by square footage) complying in the initial year(s), and medium-sized and/or smaller buildings participating in later years.
The energy commission is recommending that an ordinance be developed with a phased approach, with the phases based on building categories and sizes. One possibility is to start with all qualifying municipal buildings in the first six months, commercial buildings over 100,000 square feet in 12 to 18 months, multifamily and commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet in 24 to 36 months, and all commercial buildings over 10,000 square feet in 36 to 48 months. The goal would be to have reported energy consumption information for 80% of the commercial square feet in the city within five years of adoption.
This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron.