UPDATED: April 8, 2021: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot released the city’s 2019 Energy Benchmarking Report, which shows participating buildings of over 50,000 square feet saved nearly $74 million from energy reductions since 2016. The buildings also saw "a rapid decline" in carbon emissions per square foot, according to the city.
Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fell 15% across 2,000 participating properties from 2016 to 2019, the equivalent of removing almost 200,000 passenger cars from roads annually.
The Chicago City Council passed the ordinance in 2013 to reduce energy use and costs in certain buildings, as the sector represents about 70% of the city’s GHG emissions.
- Chicago launched its Energy Rating System to rate and make public the energy efficiency of large buildings (50,000 square feet or larger), including about 3,400 buildings across the city.
- The buildings will be provided with placards illustrating their energy performance on a zero to four-star scale, which they are required to display on-site and report at the time of building sale or lease. The city will list the ratings on the Chicago Data Portal after an initial six-month grace period for buildings to post the placards.
- The goal of the program is to increase awareness and encourage energy efficiency by making the information about energy performance more transparent and easier to understand, Amy Jewel, Senior City Advisor, City Energy Project, told Smart Cities Dive via email.
The Energy Rating System was established by the City Council via ordinance in 2017 and just now is being implemented.
Each rating will be based on the energy benchmarking reports that buildings are already required to submit annually to be in compliance with the Chicago Energy Benchmarking Ordinance, passed in 2013. The software used to report the data to the city also provides analysis of buildings' energy performance, including a 1 to 100 Energy Star score. The city assigns the new ratings for each building based on the Energy Star score.
Energy Star scores are not available for about 10-15% of buildings, and in those cases the city bases ratings on energy use per square foot, Jewel explained. The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has authority over compliance and in the past has cited building owners that did not submit their reports.
Building owners can, but are not required to, take actions to improve their ratings each year. The owners are encouraged to dig deeper into their energy benchmarking data to find areas that could be improved and to participate in various energy efficiency improvement programs.
The city mailed the first batch of 11x17 inch placards last week and the rest will be finalized and mailed by mid-September. New placards will be issued each year. Although building owners currently have a six-month grace period to post the placards as the program kicks off, they will have to post new placards immediately upon receipt each year.
Earlier this year, Chicago committed to using 100% renewable energy citywide by 2035. Targeting buildings for energy reduction is a key part of the city's strategies to increase energy efficiency and improve environmental friendliness. Large buildings are one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Chicago estimates buildings account for about 72% of the city's greenhouse gas emissions.
"Buildings that are energy efficient are the best candidates for renewable energy, since those buildings use less energy overall and thus the renewable energy becomes more feasible," Jewel said.
The renewable energy resolution also includes the goal of transitioning to a complete electrification of the Chicago Transit Authority's bus fleet by 2040. In addition, Chicago has committed to reach goals included in the Paris agreement: 26-28% reduction of emissions by 2025.
Chicago touts itself as the first U.S. city to have a large building energy rating requirement via the Energy Rating System. But even other cities that do not yet have a requirement for displaying ratings or reporting energy efficiency data are working toward building benchmarking.
Pittsburgh released its first energy benchmarking report earlier this month for municipal buildings owned and operated by the city. The city will track annual progress on the effects of implementing energy saving projects on overall energy and emissions reductions, as well as creating accountability for the city's actions.