Portland Reinstates Building Energy Benchmarking for 2022

By David J. Petersen

In 2015, the City of Portland approved a policy requiring commercial buildings 20,000 square feet or larger to track energy performance information using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager, and to report that information to the City annually. Certain buildings are exempt including residential housing, nursing homes, places of worship, parking structures, schools, industrial facilities, and warehouses. Overall, about 1,000 buildings in the City are required to report. Types of energy use covered by the policy include electricity (including renewable electricity generated on site), natural gas, steam, heating oil, and other energy-generating products.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City suspended energy performance reporting for 2020 and 2021. The reporting requirement resumes in 2022, with reports for the 2022 calendar year due to the City no later than April 22, 2023.

For buildings with multiple meters, reporting energy use requires access to monthly aggregated energy data for the building. Customers of Pacific Power, PGE, and NW Natural can request usage data either in the form of an automated upload or a periodic report. Energy usage information must be retained for at least three years and must be made available to the City for audit upon request.

The City’s policy is only an information-gathering exercise at this point, although the City does intend to communicate with owners and managers of poorly performing buildings about resources available to help improve building energy performance. The City also publicizes City-wide energy use summary statistics to aid in evaluating the City’s progress towards its emission reduction goals. Failure to report can lead to a civil penalty of up to $500 every 90 days. Further questions about the City’s policy are answered here.

Portland is not the first jurisdiction with a building energy use reporting requirement. Over 25 cities nationwide, the states of California and Washington, and the federal government (for federally owned buildings) have similar requirements. The U.S. Department of Energy encourages adoption of energy performance benchmarking as a way for building owners to gain additional information about their buildings and manage energy costs more effectively. Studies have shown that energy use reporting requirements have a tendency to motivate energy efficiency improvements, reduce carbon emissions, and save building owners money.