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Portland gives owners of large buildings until May 2020 to report energy use

The Maine Historical Society Building and adjacent Longfellow House are two of the buildings that have until May 2020 to supply the city with a report of their energy use. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Sustainability Coordinator Troy Moon believes the data will help the sustainability office “understand how commercial buildings use energy,” and “help us identify buildings that use more energy than similar properties and direct their owners toward resources that can help them make energy-efficient upgrades.”

PORTLAND — In November 2016, the City Council adopted an energy benchmarking ordinance that requires owners of buildings with at least 20,000 square feet of single-tenant floor space to report their energy and water usage to the city’s sustainability office.

Aura on Center Street will be one of close to 200 properties across the city that will be required to benchmark its energy use. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The goal was to have that data back to the city by 2019. But the council relaxed that deadline last November. According to Councilor Spencer Thibodeau, chairman of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, building owners argued they couldn’t get the data from Central Maine Power Co.

On Monday, the council gave the property owners until May 2020 to report the information.

At their special July 15 meeting, councilors also finalized an amendment to the entertainment sound ordinance, adopted the Housing Trust Fund annual report and appointed members to the Rental Housing Advisory Committee.

The council also approved entertainment and outdoor dining permits for Maine Mead Works and Sun Tiki Studios; a new business license for Morrill’s Corner Pub, and a license for Rocky Bottom Tours.

Excluding city-owned buildings, close to 200 buildings – hotels, warehouses, retail stores, university and school buildings, medical buildings, and churches – would be subject to the benchmarking ordinance.Advertisement

According to an April correspondence from Sustainability Coordinator Troy Moon to the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, the data will help the sustainability office “understand how commercial buildings use energy,” and “help us identify buildings that use more energy than similar properties and direct their owners toward resources that can help them make energy-efficient upgrades.”

Moon on Monday said “the intent of the ordinance is to encourage commercial building owners to calculate how much energy they use on an annual basis to help us work towards the carbon mitigation effort the council has proposed and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

Maine College of Art, a close to 150,000-square-foot facility at 522 Congress St., is one of 15 buildings on Congress Street that is impacted by the energy benchmarking ordinance. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The City Council has set a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emission across the city 80 percent by 2050.

Councilor Nick Mavodones said he was willing to support the new deadline, but “I do hope we reach out to all the businesses.”

Moon said he has contacted property owners about the reporting requirement. Among them are the Maine Historical Society, Maine College of Art, University of Southern Maine, University of New England, Maine Medical Center and Shipyard Brewing,

George Rheault, a resident of West Bayside, said pushing the deadline for reporting back to next May “doesn’t really address the issue we really want (to address), which is creating incentives for people to spend money right now to save energy, to make more efficient buildings and hopefully reduce their climate footprint.”Advertisement

Portland is not the only city to move in this direction.

In 2017, South Portland followed Portland’s lead and adopted an energy and water benchmarking ordinance of its own. In that city, owners of non-residential properties of 5,000 square feet or more in three zones have to provide energy performance reports to the city every May and, by May 2023, must submit a five-year energy audit report.

Residential buildings and apartment complexes with 10 or more units in those zones and municipal and school building 5,000 square feet anywhere in the city also have to comply.

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