CEE Statement: Saint Paul adopts benchmarking for large buildings

Jan 24, 2020

CEE applauds the Saint Paul City Council's adoption of an official benchmarking ordinance to require owners of large commercial and multifamily buildings to formally track building energy and water consumption.

In accordance with the Council's invitation for public testimony, on January 15 CEE's president Chris Duffrin submitted the following message in support of the resolution, which passed with a unanimous 7-0 vote on Wednesday, January 22, 2020:

On behalf of Center for Energy and Environment (CEE), I am writing to urge your support for ordinance 19-81, a proposal requiring the energy benchmarking of large buildings in Saint Paul. Our organization has worked with city staff and has met with dozens of stakeholders over the last two years to help build understanding and support for this proposal.

In an effort to meet climate goals, cities have enacted benchmarking polices as an early step to encourage carbon reductions in the large building sector. While the policy trend began with larger cities, over 30 U.S. cities now require large building benchmarking and disclosure and several smaller cities have followed suit. Locally, Minneapolis, Edina, and Saint Louis Park now have policies in place.

Large buildings represent a critical sector to engage in climate change efforts. In Saint Paul, 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from its commercial and industrial sector. To meet the goals in your recently adopted Climate Action Plan, Saint Paul and its key partners will need to engage and educate commercial building owners on their energy use and how they can utilize programs and financing to make their buildings more efficient. According to the plan, participation in utility commercial efficiency programs will need to triple in order to meet emission goals. A uniform, city-wide benchmarking policy is a good first step to help building owners measure and learn how they can make energy efficient investments and adopt best practices.

In our work to engage Saint Paul’s building owners, we found that many of them already benchmark their buildings and this requirement will not entail any extra work. Several of the building owners actually see the benefit in other buildings adopting the same practices as a way to “raise the bar” on energy efficiency and improve Saint Paul’s commercial building stock. As benchmarking policies become more commonplace in major metropolitan markets and Minnesota cities, finding more ways to leverage utility efficiency investments becomes an issue of regional competitiveness. Cities with these policies attract new tenants and more investment by lowering building operating costs, increasing building values and raising environmental benefits.

Saint Paul has crafted this policy the right way. With the Mayor’s leadership, City staff created a successful voluntary effort through the “Race to Reduce” and built a collaborative culture with building owners and managers. We applaud their efforts and thank Council President Brendmoen for bringing this proposal forward.

CEE is grateful to the many local and national colleagues who joined us in support of this important ordinance, and we look forward to continuing our own efforts in service of the Race to Reduce initiative and building energy benchmarking.
About CEE

Center for Energy and Environment is a clean energy nonprofit with special expertise and relationships in energy efficiency that stretch back 40 years. Working in homes, businesses, and communities, CEE discovers and deploys the most effective energy solutions to strengthen the economy and improve the environment.

Media contact

Tim Hanrahan, thanrahan@mncee.org, 612-244-2419

Related links

Saint Paul Energy Benchmarking
Saint Paul Race to Reduce
Benchmarking Expertise at CEE