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City of Portland proposes energy performance reporting for commercial buildings; information sessions scheduled for January

Commercial buildings are responsible for nearly a quarter of Portland’s carbon emissions and spend more than $335 million on energy every year.

Media contact:

Christine Llobregat



City of Portland proposes energy performance reporting for commercial buildings; information sessions scheduled for January

Commercial buildings are responsible for nearly a quarter of Portland’s carbon emissions and spend more than $335 million on energy every year.

Portland, ORE – This spring, Portland City Council will consider a new policy that would require owners of commercial buildings over 20,000 square feet to track their building’s energy use and report it on an annual basis. The proposed policy would cover nearly 80 percent of the commercial square footage but affect approximately 1,000 buildings — less than 20 percent of Portland’s commercial buildings.

What’s this about?

The proposed Energy Performance Reporting Policy would require commercial buildings to track energy performance with a free online tool called ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and report energy use information to the City of Portland on an annual basis. There are approximately 5,000 commercial buildings in Portland. Currently fewer than 100 claim ENERGY STAR certification.

The proposed policy covers offices, retail spaces, grocery stores, hotels, health care and higher education buildings. It does not include residential properties, nursing homes, places of worship, parking structures, K-12 schools, industrial facilities or warehouses.

Why is the City proposing this policy?

  • The energy used to power buildings is the largest source of carbon pollution in Portland.
  • Similar to a MPG rating for a new car, the energy performance policy would allow potential tenants and owners to have access to important information about building energy performance.
  • Commercial energy reporting policies in 10 other U.S. cities have proven to motivate investment in efficiency improvements that save money and reduce carbon emissions.

“The proposed policy will build awareness in the commercial building sector about energy performance,” said Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Director Susan Anderson. “Energy-efficient buildings are a win for the building owner, the tenant and for Portland’s carbon reduction goals.”

Attend a public information session in January 2015

Two events in January will offer businesses affected by the proposal a chance to ask questions, provide feedback and to understand next steps. Staff from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability will continue to work with stakeholders from the real estate and development community to refine the policy before consideration by Portland City Council in spring, 2015.

Information session #1

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

1900 SW Fourth Avenue, Room 2500A

Information session #2

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

1900 SW Fourth Avenue, Room 2500A

When would the proposed policy go into effect?

  • Commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet would be required to begin reporting in 2016.
  • Commercial buildings between 20,000 and 50,000 square feet would begin reporting in 2017.


Visit to learn more, provide feedback and sign up for policy updates.


Sprinting toward 10,000 solar homes

The cost of installing solar energy has never been lower for residents.

Solar electric system costs have fallen dramatically over the past five years. Thanks to cash incentives from Energy Trust of Oregon and tax benefits from the state and federal government, installation costs are lower and the outlook will be sunny — for those who act fast.

Final costs for a system on a typical Portland home will vary, but it’s possible to purchase a system that produces about 20-30 percent of a home’s electricity needs for under $5,000. This same system cost upwards of $15,000 just five years ago. 

Now may be the best time in history to go solar, because these low prices are temporary. The federal tax credit for residential solar, which offsets 30 percent of solar project costs, is slated to sunset at the end of 2016. Solar Oregon, a longtime partner of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, has launched the Solar Sprint campaign to encourage Oregonians to go solar now, before the federal tax credit expires. The goal of the Solar Sprint is to add another 10,000 residential solar systems by 2016, doubling the number of solar homes in Oregon.

Solar offers consumers many benefits. It’s an attractive investment opportunity for homeowners who want to own their system, especially those who have already made energy efficiency improvements. Solar protects against rising energy costs, increases home value, reduces carbon pollution that comes from using fossil fuels to power our homes, helps create local jobs, and keeps energy dollars circulating in the local economy. 

There also are solar leasing options for those want the benefits of clean energy generation, but don’t want to pay anything upfront. Oregon’s solar market has a variety of consumer choices and options. Visit for more details.

Portland makes it easier and cheaper to go solar

The City of Portland has worked consistently over the past several years to reduce the costs of going solar. This work has focused on streamlining permitting and planning and zoning processes, encouraging a supportive regulatory environment, and making information about solar permitting clearer and easier to access. Portland is part of a regional collaborative known as the Northwest Solar Communities project, which develops standardized tools to make the process of going solar simple, fast, and cost effective for customers and the jurisdictions and utilities that serve them. BPS would like to thank the Bureau of Development Services for its important contributions to these efforts.


Nihao, Climate Action

Long before President Obama’s climate agreement with China, the Chinese translation of Portland’s Climate Action Plan had been downloaded more than 1,000 times.

The November announcement by the United States and China of new commitments to reduce carbon emissions came as a surprise — even to
climate policy insiders. But to BPS staff Michael Armstrong and Mark Raggett, newly returned from a technical exchange to Kunming, China, it was a natural extension of a two-year partnership between Portland and Kunming to accelerate carbon reduction at the city scale.

Raggett and Armstrong joined an eight-person team on an October visit to Kunming, a city of four million in southern China. Like Portland, Kunming enjoys clean air, beautiful surroundings, and a recognition that environmental quality can spur economic opportunity. And like many Chinese cities, Kunming is growing at a jaw-dropping pace, with construction cranes dominating the views in every direction. All the same, Kunming is determined to preserve the high quality of life that is part of its appeal. Kunming built the first bus rapid transit system in China and is now building five subway lines . . . simultaneously! It is also trying to maintain its 25 percent bicycle/scooter mode split by building a citywide network of bikeways. And in what would be a first for China, Kunming is analyzing the feasibility of using an urban growth boundary to guide growth.

How do you say “urban growth boundary” in Chinese? “U-G-B.” 

bannerThe Portland-Kunming exchange is part of the cities’ EcoPartnership, a program established by the U.S. State Department and the Chinese Foreign Ministry to support city- and state-level collaboration between the two countries. With financial and technical support from the Energy Foundation covering all the expenses, the Portland-Kunming EcoPartnership has been among the most active and successful of the collaborations, trading information about bikeway planning, water quality, green building, and urban growth boundaries.

As Kunming officials finalize their plans for developing the site of the former airport — for history buffs, this was the home base to the “Flying Tigers,” — the American volunteer pilot corps operating in China and Burma during World War II—they soaked up Mark Raggett’s descriptions of Portland’s South Waterfront development.  The Kunming planners took particular interest in the greenway along the river, the varied heights, sizes and shapes of the buildings, and the mix of residential and commercial uses.

Michael had the satisfaction of seeing well-thumbed copies of the Chinese translation of Portland's Climate Action Plan, which was translated into Mandarin several years ago and has been downloaded more than 1,000 times. In discussions with Kunming counterparts, Michael underscored that Portland's efforts to address climate change span initiatives as diverse as solar energy, walkable neighborhoods, and composting food scraps. Kunming officials were captivated by images of Tilikum Crossing and the fact that Portland's newest bridge will carry light rail, streetcar, buses, bicycles and pedestrians, but no private vehicles. Together with Portland's track record in reducing carbon emissions to 11 percent below 1990 levels over a period of substantial population and job growth, Portland's continuing climate work exemplifies the ability of cities in the U.S. and China to do their part to respond to climate change.

The October visit was led by Gail Shibley, Mayor Hales’ chief of staff. Robert Liberty, director of Portland State University’s Urban Sustainability Accelerator and former Metro councilor, joined the delegation to share Oregon’s approach to urban growth boundaries, and Sean Penrith, Executive Director of the Climate Trust, explained how his organization invests in carbon offset projects to minimize the cost of reducing carbon emissions. Portland Bureau of Transportation planner Denver Igarta also took part, sharing design and planning insights from Portland’s experience with bikeways and examining Kunming’s bus rapid transit system.

Planning and Sustainability Commission recommends West Quadrant Plan to City Council

Affordable housing, Morrison bridgehead, building heights and river restoration discussed

Portland’s Central City offers something for everyone: a wide range of jobs, diverse housing types for different income levels, educational institutions, entertainment and dining options, and retail and recreational experiences. And the area is poised to become a true 21st century global model for low-carbon, sustainable urban development.

The Central City’s west side — or West Quadrant — has the region’s highest concentration of jobs; more than 87,000 in 2010 and 30,000 more expected by 2035. Its seven distinctive districts — from Goose Hollow to Chinatown — are becoming increasingly mixed use, providing residents more choices in new housing options and adding to the district’s vitality. So the goal of the 20-year West Quadrant Plan is to continue the area’s successful evolution as the region’s business, cultural and recreational hub, while accommodating a large share of population and job growth within a compact and sustainable urban center. The plan emphasizes continuing economic activity and employment opportunities, increasing access to the river, creating a more exciting urban waterfront, and expanding housing diversity and livability.

Work sessions lead to a PSC recommendation

The West Quadrant Plan reached a major milestone recently when the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) recommended it to the City Council for adoption after a second work session on the Proposed Draft. Staff presented commissioners with more information regarding affordable housing in the Central City, bridgehead heights along the riverfront, building height, and habitat enhancement and restoration along the riverfront. Work session materials, including the presentation, can be found in the Documents Section of the project website.

Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) staff offered a working definition for “affordable housing.” Then they explained priorities for housing affordability in the West Quadrant, including supporting greater racial, ethnic and economic diversity as well as housing options; meeting the needs of the lowest income populations; and closing the minority homeownership gap. Staff also provided specific housing targets.

The project team shared potential impacts from increased bridgehead heights along the waterfront, including shadows and wind in Tom McCall Park, as well as increased building heights in other West Quadrant districts.

Commissioner Mike Houck raised the issue of increasing habitat restoration in the Willamette River. Staff explained that existing habitat is constrained along the Central Reach because of the seawall on the west side and a railroad and I-5 on the east, so there are few additional restoration sites available. But they agreed that the West Quad Plan should call for at least two to three shallow water restoration areas to conserve and restore fish and wildlife populations.

The PSC requested that BPS explore the potential effects of wind on pedestrians caused by building height along the waterfront as well as housing development bonuses tied to additional building height for both commercial and residential uses.

After reviewing the proposed changes to the plan and discussing the above topics in depth, the commissioners voted unanimously to recommend the West Quadrant Plan to City Council for adoption.

Portland City Council will consider the proposed West Quadrant Plan in January 2015 and adopt the plan by resolution. After that, planners will begin to consolidate all of the quadrant plans and draft new zoning code provisions into a complete Central City 2035 plan. This consolidated plan and ordinance will then be the subject of hearings before the PSC and City Council. Once adopted, CC2035 will become part of the Comprehensive Plan.