We support the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance!

Boston’s City Councilors will have a rare opportunity to support climate action policy on Wednesday, May 8. The proposed Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) would require owners of large buildings (over 25,000 square feet) to collect and publicly report their buildings’ total energy and water usage each year. Those with the most inefficient buildings would be required to get an energy audit or to undertake energy efficiency upgrades. This would provide key information to owners, residents, prospective buyers and tenants, and spur energy efficiency work. Increasing energy efficiency in existing buildings is the single most important component of the City’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By passing this Ordinance, Boston would join the ranks of New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, and other major U.S. cities that have enacted similar ordinances.

Please contact your City Councilors before noon on May 8, and urge them to support the proposed ordinance. The following letter to the editor summarizes our argument.

To the Editor:

Boston Climate Action Network strongly supports the proposed City ordinance to make public the energy efficiency rating of large buildings (BERDO) as a key tool for a more financially and environmentally sustainable Boston. For residential properties the required audits are free, and even for nonresidential buildings, this benchmarking process is projected to add only two-tenths of one percent to the cost per square foot, according to Laurie Kerr, former NYC Deputy Director for Energy Efficiency, who led that city’s benchmarking program. And the audits can easily pay for themselves in energy savings that actually reduce costs.

BostonCAN is part of a working group composed of BERDO proponents and opponents working to address concerns raised by both sides. We strongly support such equity goals as protecting low-income tenants from noncompliance fines, as well as measures to protect tenant privacy. What we will not compromise on is BERDO’s goals for reducing pollution and mitigating climate change.

We wonder if some real estate owners oppose BERDO because it offers prospective tenants access to energy ratings. Building energy efficiency benchmarks, just like miles-per-gallon stickers on new cars, allow the public to vote with their dollars for the most environmentally and financially sustainable property they can find. Benchmarking allows tenants and buyers to budget effectively based on independently verified energy cost projections.

BERDO can be good for those building owners who do not realize that their buildings have fallen behind the market average in energy efficiency. Many owners and managers of large properties are already saving through benchmarking, and City officials are working with the utility companies to completely automate the process of gathering data so that it becomes virtually effortless for tenants and owners.

According to Mark Sylvia, Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency program is “projected to generate $6 billion in benefits over the lifetime of the energy efficiency improvements installed in homes and businesses, from planned spending of $2.1 billion. The plans are also expected to create or retain nearly 4,000 jobs in Massachusetts.” In addition to these skilled, export-proof jobs, lower energy bills also mean that fewer dollars will leave the region to line the pockets of petro-profiteers, and more capital will remain here, available for workforce expansion and other community investments.

In addition to these economic benefits, this ordinance is essential in this era of increasing climate instability. As we saw by our near-miss with Superstorm Sandy, great swaths of Boston are vulnerable to more intense storm surges. Flooding, heat waves, blizzards—all these are expected to increase due to the warming that we can no longer prevent.  Energy conservation today directly lessens the degree of climate change risk that we face. This degree is the difference between conditions Boston can adapt to, and conditions that might overwhelm our ability to leave our children a Boston that looks anything like what we live in today.