Owners of Salt Lake City’s largest buildings — or many of them, anyway — will have to report their energy usage.
The City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday that city officials believe will cut energy costs and reduce air pollution, even if it’s not all they had once hoped for. The lone dissenter, Councilman James Rogers, believes the city’s concessions won’t spare it a state legislative intervention.
The new ordinance requires owners of commercial buildings larger than 25,000 square feet to provide the city with an annual measure of their energy usage — a step toward the city’s goals of using 100 percent renewable electricity by 2032 and reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2040.
It differs in three key ways from the first draft, which was tabled by the council in January and met resistance from legislators, business leaders and a real estate arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
First, the final version adopted applies only to municipal and commercial buildings, not to places of worship or tax-exempt buildings.
Second, instead of publishing the energy scores of all such buildings, the city will publish only those buildings deemed to be more efficient than 50 percent of similar buildings nationwide, while giving building owners the option to go further and share their exact scores.
Finally, potential tuneups identified during energy use assessments will be voluntary, though city officials think many of those tuneups will make sense to building owners from environmental and financial standpoints.
The ordinance will be phased in over three years, which was previously asked of Sustainability Director Vicki Bennett by House Majority Leader Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, a developer, according to an April transmission to the council.
Before casting his vote, Rogers said he was the lone council member who owns a building that size, “so the way that I look at it is, this is a ’Let me hit you with a club first’ mentality, instead of a carrot approach.”
“We‘re going to have Big Brother come to us anyway and kill it up in the Legislature,” he said, adding that the council should aim for more incremental progress.
“If we’re just doing it to do it, and say, ‘Hey, this is a feel-good moment,’ I hope everyone feels good,” Rogers said.
Barring such superseding state action, owners of commercial buildings that are over 50,000 square feet will need to begin reporting May 2019, while owners of buildings that are between 25,000 and 50,000 square feet will have until May 2020.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said in a news release Wednesday that the ordinance was ”a case study in collaborative policymaking.”
City staffers project that each year, the ordinance will save local building owners $15.8 million while cutting 29 tons of pollutants.
Kevin Emerson, director of energy efficiency programs for Utah Clean Energy, said in a news release that nonresidential buildings make up 51 percent of the city’s carbon footprint.
The council voted 4-to-1 for the ordinance, with council members Derek Kitchen and Lisa Adams not present.
More information is available at www.slcgreen.com/elevatebuildings.
Correction: The City Council passed the ordinance by a four-to-one vote. A previous version of this story misstated the vote.