Major US cities and how they are improving their energy benchmarking

Mandatory benchmarking has begun to sprout up in cities from all corners of the United States. The program attempts to invoke smart energy policies that save money and reduce emissions by providing more information for building managers to make informed decisions. This is accomplished through mandatory reporting of energy consumption data by commercial buildings over a certain size.

Benchmarking policies, if properly monitored, can achieve great results for cities:

  • Reduced emissions
  • Increased clean, energy jobs
  • Safer environment for citizens
  • Increased real estate value

Tying a building’s real estate value to its energy efficiency promotes competition among building managers and incentives to implement energy efficient programs. Energy data is reported to the EPA’s Portfolio Manager, which scores building’s on a scale of 1-100. Buildings that score 75 or above are considered to be in the top 25% in the nation in energy efficiency, awarding it an Energy Star certification.

EPA studies have shown that the top 5 cities with the most energy certified buildings instituted benchmarking laws in the past 5 years. An EPA study found that buildings that participated in benchmarking laws saw an average energy consumption reduction of 2.4%.

Of course, energy benchmarking laws are not perfect and can often ignore many important building variables, such as age and location. Inputting energy data into the Portfolio Manager can be expensive and cumbersome without an energy management system.

Let’s look at some early adopters of energy benchmarking and see how successful their efforts have become.

New York City

New York City’s energy benchmarking laws were implemented with the passage of Local Law 84. This law initially targeted large buildings over 50,000 square feet and is going to be expanded in 2018 to mid-size building owners between 25,000-50,000 square feet.

Considering buildings in NYC account for 71% of total carbon emissions, any progress in energy benchmarking could be instrumental in cutting emissions city-wide. After an implementing energy benchmarking in 2010, NYC experienced a 6% reduction in energy consumption city-wide between 2010-2013.

Of the building managers who have complied with Local law 84, 82% have made investments in energy efficient technology or programs. 84% have reported making “low- or no-cost operational changes to improve energy efficiency.”

Theoretically, if a city as densely populated could reduce its total energy consumption through benchmarking laws, than other cities could as well. In 2016, residential and commercial buildings made up 40% of total energy consumption in the United States.


Boston recently began practicing energy benchmarking laws with the passage of the Building Energy reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) in 2013. Since then, the city of Boston has topped the top energy efficient cities list of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) two years running.

How much energy reductions could be attributed to energy benchmarking isn’t entirely empirical. The city of Boston also does participate in a number of green friendly policies, including the Climate Action plan and purchasing from aggregated energy suppliers.

Boston’s energy benchmarking laws require disclosure of gas emission, energy consumption, and water consumption. Buildings that perform poorly will undergo mandatory energy reviews every five years.


Chicago has enjoyed some of the greatest success thus far from energy benchmarking. With an 80% compliance rate among building types and 2700 properties actively benchmarked, the city has enjoyed energy reduction savings of $11.6 million annually. In total, they’ve reduced their energy consumption by 4% each year.

Right now, Chicago’s benchmarking laws account for commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet. Chicago’s Energy Benchmarking Center have helped building managers meet compliance laws through local volunteers and pro-bono assistance. In total, the city of Chicago has saved $17.8 million in utility bills since implementing energy benchmarking policies.

General Success

Many cities across the country have been responding to consumer demand by trying to reduce building’s emissions through promoting transparency. Since passing energy benchmarking ordinances, 11 cities, including Orlando, have received 10 point increases in the ACEEE’s energy scorecard. Energy benchmarking reduces emissions and energy waste. Expect more cities across the country to model off of this success and implement their own energy savings policies.

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