Denver Now Requires Building Energy Benchmarking

The capital city of Colorado joins a growing list of U.S. cities requiring buildings of certain sizes to track and report energy use.

In late December 2016, the Denver City Council unanimously passed an ordinance aimed at reducing energy use in the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions by requiring energy benchmarking and transparency in multi-family and commercial buildings. The new ordinance, the Energize Denver program, is a key component of the city’s efforts to achieve Denver’s 2020 Sustainability and Climate Action Plan goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80% by 2050.

“By passing this ordinance, we’re aiming to make Denver a sustainable city for generations to come,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “Local actions can have global impacts, and Denver will join with cities across the world who are taking positive steps to make their cities more resilient to our changing climate.”

Denver is among 16 other large cities to pass similar ordinances in an effort to achieve climate goals, while realizing the economic benefits of long term energy savings. (See map below of U.S. cities that have passed mandatory benchmarking and transparency policies for commercial and/or multifamily buildings, from the Institute for Market Transformation.)

energy benchmarking
Source: Institute for Market Transformation

Beginning in 2017, commercial and multi-family buildings over 25,000 square feet in Denver will be required to track and report their ENERGY STAR score. In 2018, buildings over 50,000 square feet will be required to report their score. The ENERGY STAR score measures and tracks their energy use, will be made available to the public on an annual basis.

Energy use from heating and cooling in buildings is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Denver, making up approximately 57% of the city’s carbon emissions. The benchmarking is estimated to lead to annual energy savings between 2-3%.

This recent ordinance followed an 18-month stakeholder process led by Denver’s Department of Environmental Health, that incorporated a series of recommendations made by the Energize Denver Task Force on how to achieve significant reductions from commercial and multi-family buildings.