Letter: Energy scoring will boost economy, help climate

April 12, 2013
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Boston Climate Action Network strongly supports the proposed City ordinance to make public the energy efficiency rating of large buildings (BERDO) as a key tool for a more sustainable Boston, both financially as well as environmentally. (“City wants building owners to report energy usage,” March 29.) For residential properties the required audits are free, and even for non-residential buildings, this benchmarking process is projected to add only two-tenths of 1 percent to the cost per square foot, according to City Council hearing testimony from Laurie Kerr, former New York City Deputy Director for Energy Efficiency, who led that city’s benchmarking program. And the audits can easily pay for themselves in energy savings that actually reduce costs.

BostonCAN is part of a working group composed of BERDO proponents and opponents working to address concerns raised by both sides. We strongly support equity goals, such as to protect low-income tenants from noncompliance fines, as well as measures to protect tenant privacy. What we will not compromise on is BERDO’s climate change pollution reduction goals.

We wonder if some real estate owners oppose BERDO because it offers prospective tenants access to energy ratings. Building energy efficiency benchmarks, just like miles-per-gallon stickers on new cars, allow the public to vote with their dollars for the most environmentally and financially sustainable property they can find. Benchmarking allows tenants and buyers to budget effectively based on independently verified energy cost projections.

BERDO can be good for those building owners who do not realize that their building has fallen behind the market average in energy efficiency. Many owners and managers of large properties are already saving through benchmarking, and City officials are working with the utility companies to completely automate the process of gathering data so that it becomes virtually effortless for tenants and owners.

According to the 2011 Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council report “Efficiency as Our First Fuel,” the Commonwealth’s energy efficiency program is projected to generate $6 billion in benefits over the lifetime of the energy efficiency improvements installed in homes and businesses, from planned spending of $2.1 billion. The plans are also expected to create or retain nearly 4,000 jobs in Massachusetts. In addition to these skilled, export-proof jobs, lower energy bills also mean that fewer dollars will leave the region to line the pockets of petro-profiteers and more capital will remain here, available for workforce expansion and other community investments.

In addition to these economic benefits, this ordinance is essential in this era of increasing climate instability. As we saw by our near-miss with Superstorm Sandy, great swaths of Boston are vulnerable to more intense storm surges. Flooding, heat waves, blizzards—all these are expected to increase due to the warming that we can no longer prevent. Energy conservation today directly lessens the degree of climate change risk that we face. This degree is the difference between conditions Boston can adapt to, and conditions that might overwhelm our ability to leave our children a Boston that looks anything like what we live in today.

Loie Hayes

Coordinator

Boston Climate Action Network

Jamaica Plain

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