A new ordinance requires owners of St. Louis buildings of at least 50,000 square feet to track their energy use. The practice, called benchmarking, is expected to save local residents and businesses nearly $8 million annually in energy costs by 2025.
It could also address the city's contribution to climate change, removing greenhouse gas pollution that's equal to what 15,000 cars would emit.
"Seventy seven percent of our [carbon] emissions are coming from buildings," said Catherine Werner, the city's sustainability director. "So why not target those buildings to reduce those emissions?"
Mayor Francis Slay signed the bill Thursday. Sponsored by 7th Ward alderman Jack Coatar, it does not require buildings to make their buildings more efficient. But it could encourage them to do so, said Emily Andrews, executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council's Missouri Gateway Chapter.
"Once you're paying attention, then you can really start to target improvements in your building or investments in your building to be more energy efficient," Andrews said.
Some building owners already practice benchmarking. The Missouri Athletic Club, for example, used benchmarking to invest in energy efficiency and as a result, has saved $362,000 per year.
"When operators of large buildings know how they're utilizing their energy, it unlocks benefits for everyone, including energy statement savings, as well as reduced energy usage and emissions," said Rich Wright, who manages Ameren Missouri's BizSavers programs, which help businesses fund energy efficiency projects.
The utility company is assisting in the benchmarking efforts by providing data on building energy use.
Werner said making buildings more energy efficient also will improve conditions for tenants and employees.
"That is an investment in how their building functions and probably improving the comfort level and overall sense of quality of just working in that space," she said.
Werner also hopes that property owners who benchmark will feel encouraged to apply for programs that provide them with financial incentives to make their buildings more energy efficient, such as the city's Set the PACE program.
The benchmarking ordinance also qualifies the city to receive $500,000 from the City Energy Project, a joint initiative by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation. St. Louis is one of 20 cities across the country to receive funding and resources to develop programs that help buildings reduce energy use. Some of the money will be used to hire a technical advisor that would be housed in the city's Building Division to work on energy efficiency projects.
Municipal buildings have until the end of the year to report energy use to the city. Buildings in the private sector will have to report in 2018.
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