Around the States: Seattle Benchmarks Building Efficiency; California Pushes for PACE Financing; Indiana Gets Clean Energy Standard

The City of Seattle sent letters to more than 800 large commercial property owners and managers this week informing them about the new citywide program designed to help owners and managers assess and improve building energy efficiency and spur the market for building energy retrofits.

Under the new program, all commercial and multifamily residential buildings larger than 10,000 sq. ft. will be measured or “benchmarked,” for their energy performance using the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Building energy ratings will also be provided to the City and to prospective buyers, tenants and lenders upon request during real estate transactions. 

The program first applies this fall to nonresidential buildings 50,000 sq. ft. or larger and extends to both nonresidential and multifamily residential buildings 10,000 sq. ft. or larger next April 2012.

Energy benchmarking is becoming a common practice among many large property owners and managers working to lower building operating costs and make buildings more competitive on the real estate market.

Numerous studies show that energy-efficient buildings–in particular those with green certifications–out-compete inefficient buildings in terms of higher rental and sales prices and building occupancy levels. 

“Seattle’s buildings provide one of the greatest opportunities to generate energy savings and boost economic development for the city.  This new program will help building owners take a key step toward increasing building energy efficiency, which, in turn, helps lower operating costs, makes buildings more competitive and creates good local jobs,” said Department of Planning and Development Director Diane Sugimura.

Palm Desert, California Pushes for PACE

Palm Desert, California, the city that spearheaded Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing in 2008, is leading the charge to overcome federal obstacles placed in the way of this popular program.

Palm Desert has committed initial seed funding of $25,000 to EcoMotion to form a non-profit education and advocacy organization for PACE, called Energy Independence America, and is urging cities and counties throughout the country to get behind the effort.

"It is absolutely infuriating to me that the federal government has thrown a roadblock in front of local government’s efforts to clean up our environment, reduce our carbon footprint, and make our country more energy independent," said Councilwoman and immediate past Mayor Cindy Finerty.

Property Assessed Clean Energy financing was rapidly sweeping the nation as "one of the most innovative municipal finance programs in modern history," according to The Harvard Business Review. It had spread to twenty-five states throughout America, but growth was abruptly interrupted on July 6, 2010 when the Federal Home Finance Agency (FHFA), caretaker of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, summarily announced that it would no longer honor mortgages with PACE liens securing residential energy improvements.

In response to the FHFA proclamation, residential PACE programs across America came to a grinding halt. Palm Desert, the State of California, and six other entities sued the FHFA. But in the past ten months, despite lawsuits and lobbying, no progress has been made in moving FHFA off of its position.

Indiana Passes Voluntary Clean Energy Portfolio Standard

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law a voluntary clean energy portfolio standard (CPS), which sets a goal of 10% of the state’s electric generation to come from clean energy sources by 2025 and incentivizes utilities to participate.

"For Indiana to keep this forward momentum going, leaders will need to ensure that the right policies are put in place to create a stable business and investment environment," says Denise Bode, CEO of American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The bill (S.B.251) calls for at least 50% of the qualifying energy obtained by Indiana utilities participating in the CPS to come from within the state.

The House passed the amended bill on a bipartisan vote of 62-34 on April 21, and the Senate passed the bill by a 31-19 bipartisan vote on April 26.

ACEEE Reports on State and Local Energy Efficiency Policies 

A new white paper from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) examines how state governments can enable local governments to advance energy efficiency.

The paper and a blog post describe ways the unique connection between state and local governments can be leveraged to implement mutually beneficial energy efficiency programs and policies. States can enact policies, provide financial or technical assistance, or develop comprehensive programs to spur energy efficiency initiatives in local government buildings, schools, and transportation and land-use planning.

The white paper (available at the link below) includes an appendix of policies and programs in all 50 states that enable local governments to advance energy efficiency.

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