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Portland City Council approves energy performance reporting for commercial buildings

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

On Earth Day, Portland City Council voted unanimously to approve a new policy that will require owners of commercial buildings over 20,000 square feet to track energy use and report it on an annual basis. The policy will cover nearly 80 percent of the commercial square footage and affect approximately 1,000 buildings.

“Portland has set a goal to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. To reach that goal, we all have a role to play — public and private, at work and at home,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. “Reducing energy use in buildings is a critical part of that picture. Tracking energy use and investing in energy efficiency saves money for the building owners. And for the city as a whole. Last year alone, the city saved $6 million on its own energy bills.”

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

“Today, my clients, tenant customers and staff expect energy efficiency,” said David Genrich, general manager, JLL, a professional services and investment management company specializing in real estate. “Tracking energy use has become a core responsibility of good building managers, and this policy ensures consistency across the board.”

The new Energy Performance Reporting Policy will require commercial buildings to track 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 buildings claim ENERGY STAR certification.

“The fact that the policy requires the use of the Energy Star Portfolio Manager in reporting makes a lot of sense. It’s widely used, it is well recognized, it has a lot of credibility, and the EPA makes a lot of training available for people to get familiar with the program,” said Renee Loveland, sustainability manager at Gerding Edlen, one of the nation’s leading real estate investment and development firms. “We’ve been using it over the past several years. All of the other markets we’re currently doing business in have mandatory reporting in place, and Portfolio Manager has been working well for our properties.”

Why are cities like Portland adopting energy performance reporting for commercial buildings?

  • The energy used to power buildings is the largest source of carbon pollution in Portland.
  • Similar to a MPG rating for a car, the energy performance policy allows potential tenants and owners to have access to important information about building energy performance.
  • Commercial energy reporting policies in 12 other U.S. cities have proven to motivate investment in efficiency improvements that save money and reduce carbon emissions.


“This has been a great collaboration among City bureaus and community members, including dozens of building owners and managers,” said Bureau of Planning and Sustainability Director Susan Anderson. “This isn't new. It's tried and true — and already has been adopted in 12 other U.S. cities."

Visit www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/energyreporting to learn more and track program updates.


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From BPS Director Susan Anderson: Portland takes action on climate change; new video features the business case for climate action now

BPS E-News, Issue 41, April 2015

When I was first hired by the Portland Energy Office to work on local energy policy in the 90s, few people were interested in the issue of global warming. While scientists talked about climate change as a reality, it hadn’t yet become a key public issue.

At that same time, two city council members, Mike Lindberg and Earl Blumenauer, also agreed that national energy policy was unsustainable and that we might have to wait decades to see changes, so we should start at the local level.

With their political support and leadership, in 1993 we adopted our first Climate Action Plan and started to make things happen. And as public awareness of climate change grew, more and more businesses, government and community leaders came together around the need to act.

Fortunately, we realized early on that the things our city desired — reduced costs for businesses, more affordable housing, clean air, healthier kids, lively, walkable neighborhoods and great quality of life — all aligned with actions to reduce carbon emissions.

As business, community and political leaders began to recognize these “co-benefits,” Portland was in a position to embrace its role as a climate change leader, while showing that residents and businesses were saving money. Creating good public policy, together with programs that addressed climate change, became the norm.

Our community has some impressive results to show for it:

  • We made transportation easier with a network of light rail, streetcar and buses.
  • Hundreds of miles of bicycle lanes were added to the city’s street network. Today, more than 6 percent of Portlanders ride their bikes to work, compared with 1 percent on average in other cities.
  • We invested in infrastructure. The new Tilikum Crossing bridge is the most recent example of investments in good urban design, energy efficiency, and healthy, connected communities.
  • City facilities are now more efficient, with savings of more than $6 million/year due to investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
  • Solarize Portland and related efforts resulted in more than 2,000 residential solar systems installed.
  • The high performance, green building industry took off early here, resulting in large numbers of LEED Gold and Platinum buildings. These designations in Portland are now interchangeable with the words “quality building.”
  • We launched Clean Energy Works to make homes more energy efficient. About 5,000 homes have been improved, thanks to the program’s mix of incentives, loans and individual investments.
  • A similar effort for multifamily housing in the 1990s and 2000s resulted in energy efficiency improvements in more than 40,000 apartments.
  • Recycling is another big win. Four years ago, we changed curbside collection so that recycling, yard debris and food waste are collected weekly, but garbage is picked up every other week. Practically overnight we reduced single-family waste headed to the landfill by 37 percent. The total recycling rate is now 70 percent for all commercial and residential solid waste.

Portland’s early action on climate change had some unexpected benefits with a surge in local expertise in green building, energy efficiency and developing vibrant neighborhoods. Our local designers, engineers, inventors and problem-solvers created all kinds of solutions to address climate change and use resources more efficiently. Now, those people are selling their solutions to the rest of the world. Whether it’s a green building design, stormwater management system or a recycling/waste reduction solution, the sustainable technologies and services sector is now a robust part of our traded sector economy.

Since we created our first Climate Action Plan in 1993, Portland has grown by more than 120,000 people. But we’ve managed to reduce carbon emissions by 14 percent citywide, and on a per person basis, we’re down 35 percent.  In plain language, that means we are continuing to live a good life here in Portland, while cutting the use of fossil fuels by 35% per person.

And at the same time, we’ve added thousands of jobs – proving that you can grow a local economy while downsizing your carbon footprint.

But today, as we set even more ambitious goals for climate action, the sense of urgency has increased. We can’t wait decades to see the dramatic results we need.

And that means we must 1) invest in renewable energy, 2) retrofit our existing buildings to make them healthier and more efficient, 3) develop net-zero energy new buildings, 4) promote more transit, 5) implement land use planning that supports walking and biking, 6) reduce our total consumption, and 7) reuse, recycle and compost as much of our waste as possible.

As Portland has done in the past, these leaps forward will require collaboration among residents, businesses and government. For the latest thinking -- check out the draft 2015 Climate Action Plan, headed to City Council this summer. And, watch this new video to hear from local resident and business climate action leaders.

Together, we can show the world that climate innovation happens here.

 

Susan Anderson, Director

City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Fix-it Fair Celebrates a Successful 28th Season

Over 70 organizations provided exhibits and workshops that attracted more than 1,700 attendees.

Parkrose High School, Rosa Parks Elementary School and David Douglas High School hosted this winter’s fairs, offering 40 workshops and drawing more than 1,700 people from the diverse surrounding communities.

If you attended a Fair, you may have gotten help from Repair PDX fixing a broken appliance, or had your bike tuned-up by the folks from Safe Routes to School, learned to weatherize your home, or even attended one of the many workshops in Spanish at David Douglas HS.Fix-It Fairs help Portland residents save money while creating healthy homes and enhancing our natural environment. With a primary audience of low- to middle- income residents that are racially and culturally diverse, the Fairs offer free access to community resources and educational opportunities. Spanish speaking attendees made up 16 percent of attendees at the third fair, thanks to a Spanish-language track publicized by Univision KUNP.

Fix-It Fairs have been a success for nearly three decades because of our committed partners. While BPS facilitates the huge events, the rich content and resources are provided by more than 70 organizations who offer exhibits, on-site repairs and workshops. We would also like to thank the more than 60 volunteers who provided outreach, interpretation and staff assistance at the fairs.

A very special thank you goes to our sponsors, Energy Trust of Oregon, Pacific Power, Portland Water Bureau and Univision KUNP.

And while we’re saying thank you, we would like to honor one of the founders of the Fix-it Fairs, Dave Tooze who is retiring this year. Dave helped organize the original fairs and continued to provide workshops on energy savings for just about all 28 years. His friendly smile and depth of knowledge will be sorely missed – but his Fix-It Fair legacy will live on! 

Plan ahead for neighborhood cleanup events

Reduce clutter by reusing and recycling.

There are over 40 neighborhood cleanup events scheduled around Portland in April and May to give residents a chance to remove unwanted clutter from their homes, basements and garages.

Neighborhood cleanups prioritize and promote both recycling and reuse. The materials accepted at cleanup events vary, from bulky items like furniture, mattresses and appliances to items for recycling and reuse like scrap metal, building materials and household goods.

Volunteers from neighborhood associations coordinate these events and have been offering more options for reuse every year. In fact, there are about 30 events that will include onsite reuse options, allowing neighbors to take, swap or buy items immediately.  

The seven Neighborhood Coalitions are the best source of information about the scheduled cleanup events by neighborhood association.

Central Northeast Neighbors (CNN)

East Portland Neighborhood Office (EPNO)

Neighbors West/Northwest (NW/NW)

North Portland Neighborhood Services (NPNS)

Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN)

Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition (SEUL) 

Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc. (SWNI)

Find contact information for your neighborhood association from the Office of Neighborhood Involvement or call 503-823-4519. 

Contact the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at 503-823-7202 for cleanup dates, locations, costs and accepted materials.