By an 8-0 vote (Sally Bagshaw was absent) the city council just adopted new rules that will require the owners of all commercial and multifamily buildings in the city to make information about their  buildings' energy usage available to tenants, prospective tenants, prospective buyers, and lenders.

The new rules, which exempt residential buildings smaller than five units and commercial buildings under 10,000 square feet, are an extension of a state law that requires owners of non-residential buildings to disclose their energy performance to prospective tenants, buyers, and lenders. The idea is to create incentives for building owners and tenants to reduce their energy consumption (tenants, because conservation makes their bills lower; building owners, because prospective tenants won't sign a lease on a place with astronomical energy costs). The penalty for failing to file reports at the city is between $150 and $500 a day.

But the bill could have another benefit: Letting tenants who pay private companies (AKA third-party billing companies) for a set portion of their building's energy use know how much energy their building is actually consuming. That alone won't improve billing fairness for people who are overcharged for electricity (something I've written about before), but it will give tenants the information they need to protest unfair billing practices.

Mayor Mike McGinn will sign the bill at a special ceremony Monday afternoon—an event some bill proponents are looking to with irony, as the legislation came directly out of the city's Green Building Task Force, created by McGinn's predecessor Greg Nickels and staffed by the city's Office of Sustainability and the Environment. As we've noted the future of that office remains in limbo.
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