Utah Clean Energy - reducing pollution by saving energy

Utah Clean Energy is excited to announce the launch of a new initiative to help underserved and low-income communities transition to a low carbon future. Through our new energy equity initiative, which includes the Salt Lake City “Neighborhood Light Swap” pilot program, we are bringing energy savings directly to community members, empowering them to reduce pollution and improve local air quality and public health, all while saving money on their monthly utility bills.

Salt Lake City Neighborhood “Light Swap”

In order to increase participation in energy efficiency programs, Utah Clean Energy is working with local partners, including city councils, libraries, schools, Salt Lake City, and Rocky Mountain Power to help community members access energy-saving programs.

In addition to coordinating and seeking input from community leaders, advocates, non-governmental organizations, local government and utility companies, Utah Clean Energy is also hosting a series of Neighborhood “Light Swaps”. These “Light Swap” events will allow households located in the 84104 and 84116 zip codes to “swap” 5 conventional light bulbs for 5 energy-saving LEDs for FREE and learn about other free and low-cost ways to save energy and money. 

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Thank you to Rocky Mountain Power’s wattSmart program for donating over 1,000 energy-saving LED light bulbs for this project! We are also thankful for Salt Lake County Health Department for helping us responsibly dispose of our CFL bulbs. You can learn more about hazardous waste disposal on their website.

Come to a “Light Swap” listed below to get started!

“Light Swap” Event Dates, Times & Locations

  • Back to School Night: Friday, August 24th, 4 - 7 PM 
    Mountainview Elementary School, 1380 Navajo St, Salt Lake City, UT 84104

Why Energy Equity?

Historically, residents in 84104 and 84116 have had some of the lowest rates of participation in energy efficiency programs in Salt Lake City. And while underserved residents stand to benefit most from energy savings, they are least likely to utilize these resources due to prohibitive up-front costs, limited program promotion, and linguistic barriers.

Underserved and low-income communities are disproportionately burdened by energy costs, making energy and cost savings especially impactful for these communities. On average, low-income households pay 3 times more on energy bills than the average-income households as a percentage of their household income.[1] In addition to the financial stress that a high energy burden poses, it can also lead to a host of public health concerns, as many families respond by foregoing essentials like groceries and reducing necessary energy usage, which can cause discomfort, inadequate lighting, and unsafe housing conditions.[2]

In addition to improving household comfort and reducing monthly utility costs, energy efficiency leads to numerous “co-benefits” that improve public health and local air quality. Here are a few examples of how reducing energy waste can help improve community health and improve the environment:

  • Decreasing energy waste reduces the need to use fossil fuels like coal to generate electricity, which is a huge win for public health and the environment. Pollutants from fossil fuel combustion lead to “four of the leading causes of death in the United States: cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, heart disease, and stroke.”[3]
  • Reducing the amount of fossil fuel emissions also helps to fight climate change. This can help combat public health problems amplified by climate change, including exposure to extreme heat in poorly insulated, inefficient housing.
  • Salt Lake City is ranked seventh in the nation for worst 24-hour air pollution spikes.[4] Over one-third (39%) of local wintertime pollution that contributes to red air quality days comes from “area source” emissions, which includes natural gas usage in homes and buildings.[5]
  • By making a home more energy efficient—especially by improving insulation and fixing air leaks—the occupant needs to use less natural gas to heat the home, which reduces emissions and helps improve local air quality. Improving the air quality can help reduce symptoms of respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD.
  • Energy efficiency also helps indoor air quality. By making your home more airtight and insulated, less cold air, pests, allergens, and moisture can enter the home, thus improving indoor air quality and reducing symptoms of respiratory conditions.[6]

In addition to improving public health, energy efficiency can help families save money. Just by participating in the Light Swap program and swapping 5 old incandescent or CFL bulbs for 5 energy-saving LEDs, we estimate that participants can save up to $80 per year![7] And although getting started can be daunting, there are tons of easy, low- or no-cost things that residents can do today to start saving money and energy.

Additional Energy Efficiency Resources

  • Energy Efficiency Next Steps Guide – Describes low- and no-cost energy efficiency changes that households can make to save energy and money.
  • Energy Experts – Provides air sealing, duct sealing, and attic insulation for FREE to residents of 84104 and 84116.
  • HEAT Assistance – Provides financial assistance with utility bills from November to April to eligible families (at 150% of the poverty level).
  • Rocky Mountain Power wattSmart Home Energy Kit – Provides Rocky Mountain Power customers with 4 additional LEDs FREE of charge. All you need to get started is your account number.
  • Energy rebates – Provides financial incentives for energy efficient appliances or making energy-saving changes in your home. Dominion Energy and Rocky Mountain Power both offer incentives, so make sure to check out both!
  • Weatherization Assistance Program – Performs energy efficiency improvements that include replacing inefficient lighting, repairing windows, doors, and furnaces, adding insulation in walls, floors, and attics, and insulating air ducts for eligible households (200% of the poverty level).




[1] A. Drehobl and L. Ross, “Lifting the High Energy Burden in America’s Largest Cities: How Energy Efficiency Can Improve Low Income and Underserved Communities,” (Washington, DC: ACEEE and Energy Efficiency for All, 2016). http://aceee.org/research-report/u1602.

[2] D. Hernández and S. Bird, “Energy Burden and the Need for Integrated Low-Income Housing and Energy Policy,” (Poverty & Public Policy 2: 5–25, 2010).

[3] American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy and Physicians for Social Responsibility factsheet. http://aceee.org/sites/default/files/ee-health-1008.pdf.

[4] http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/city-rankings/most-polluted-cities.html

[5] Sources of Emissions, UCAIR website: https://www.ucair.org/sources-of-emissions/

[6] J. Wilson et. al., “Home Rx: The Health Benefits of Home Performance,” (Washington, DC: US Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, December 2016). https://www.energystar.gov/sites/default/files/asset/document/Home%20Rx%20The%20Health%20Benefits%20of%20Home%20Performance%20-%20A%20Review%20of%20the%20Current%20Evidence_FINAL.pdf

[7] Replacing five traditional 60 watt bulbs with 9 watt LEDs will save $79 per year (assuming the bulb being replaced is a 60 watt bulb being used 8 hours/day, at an average cost of $0.11/kWh) http://www.seagulllighting.com/ENERGY-STAR-Savings.htm. Lifespan of LED bulbs is 50,000 hours, or roughly 17 years if averaging 8 hours/day. https://www.bulbs.com/learning/ledfaq.aspx.

On February 8, 2019, Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) filed an application with the Utah Public Service Commission proposing changes to its commercial energy efficiency programs. See docket 19-035-T01.

Generally, the proposal would change the way incentives are given for commercial lighting measures from a kilowatt-hour saved basis to a per-watt reduced basis. RMP also proposed categorizing commercial customers into small, medium, and large groups based on the customers’ total energy usage, then implementing incentives based on each category.

RMP stated that these changes were designed to more effectively encourage participation among commercial customers with lower hours of operation, which could increase the total number of program participants. Further, RMP stated that these changes would provide the same level of cost effectiveness as the current incentive structure. The application also includes an expansion of incentives to add advanced control systems to rooftop HVAC units on commercial buildings, which has proven to be an important opportunity for electricity savings in recent years.

However, after receiving comments from interested parties and reviewing RMP’s proposal, the Commission issued an order suspending its decision, saying that it needs additional information about the changes to the lighting incentives before making its final decision. As a result, the Commission has declined to approve or deny the proposal and ordered a technical conference on this issue, as well as two new rounds of comments from parties.

The technical conference will take place on March 26, and comments and reply comments will be due on April 9 and April 16 respectively. Utah Clean Energy will remain engaged in this process to make sure commercial customers in Utah get the best energy efficiency incentives possible.

On October 16, 2017 the City Council of Park City unanimously passed a resolution to adopt “net-zero energy performance requirements” for city owned and funded buildings. With the adoption of this policy new municipal facilities will be designed, built, and operated according to one of three standards noted in the resolution: the International Living Future Institute’s “Energy Petal” Certification; a score of zero using the New Buildings Institute’s Zero Energy Performance Index; or Passive House certification with on-site renewables. The resolution, which is thought to be the most ambitious such policy in the nation, is an important step in helping Park City achieve its goal to be net zero carbon and powered by 100% renewable electricity by 2022 for municipal facilities.

Net zero energy buildings are highly energy efficient buildings that produce as much on-site renewable energy as they consume over the course of a year, and play a central role in improving air quality and reducing climate change emissions.

Utah Clean Energy, in partnership with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, stimulated Park City's interest in this important policy through an industry workshop in April 2017 and helped shape the policy through sharing feedback with Park City staff. Utah Clean Energy congratulates Park City for taking a leadership role on net zero energy buildings!

You can learn more about the resolution by reading Park City's press release.

Keep Utah Energy Efficiency Programs Growing!

Rocky Mountain Power Proposes cuts to Utah’s Successful Energy Efficiency Programs

Rocky Mountain Power Knows the Value of Energy Efficiency

For over a decade, Rocky Mountain Power has invested in an energy savings incentive program, called wattsmart, which helps countless Utahns save energy and money, and cut air pollution. Energy efficiency helps Utah families and businesses use energy more wisely, resulting in lower energy bills and less strain on our utility grid--actions that preserve our natural resources and shrink our environmental footprint. After all, the cleanest source of energy is the electricity we don’t use.

Rocky Mountain Power’s Energy Efficiency Programs are Hugely Effective

The utility’s energy efficiency programs, which offer incentives to use more efficient technologies (such as LED lighting, building controls and efficient heating and cooling systems) have saved Utah families and businesses a whopping $1 billion in reduced electricity costs since 2008 by cutting electricity use by 2.2 billion kilowatt hours over this timeframe. And let’s not forget, energy efficiency is a local economic engine that supports more than 30,000 Utah jobs.

You may ask why a utility would want to invest in helping its customers reduce their bills. The answer is simple. Energy efficiency saves utilities money! When Rocky Mountain Power helps Utahns save electricity, it costs the utility about 3 cents for every kilowatt hour saved through energy efficiency incentive programs, which is on par with or cheaper than many other energy resources.

The Issue: Reducing the Level of Energy Savings through Efficiency Programs

Energy savings line chart in 2017 IRP

In a move that defies common sense, Rocky Mountain Power is planning to severely cut its successful energy-savings programs in Utah beginning in 2018. Through these cuts, Rocky Mountain Power is taking a step backward from the level of energy savings in its own 2015 plan. These cuts translate to a 32% reduction in 2018, and a 27% reduction over the next 10 years as proposed in the utility’s most recent 20-year plan, which estimates the energy resources (i.e. wind, solar, and coal) needed to meet energy demand, and the amount of energy-saving resources they should invest in to reduce consumer demand for electricity. This projection stands in stark contrast to the utility’s own 2015 Plan, which projected it would increase energy savings programs over the next 20 years (though not keeping pace with leading utilities)!

A 32% cut in energy efficiency has significant consequences: Most importantly, this reduction is equal to 105,500 megawatt hours of electricity not saved in 2018. This amount of electricity is equal to the annual electricity consumption of 12,317 average Utah homes, and is equal to burning over 83 million pounds of coal.


Equivalencies to 32 percent savings cut in 2017 IRP

We Must Continue on Utah’s Energy-Savings Path

Conserving energy is a Utah ethic. Pursuing “energy conservation, energy efficiency, and environmental quality” is a recognized part of the State of Utah’s energy policy.  Energy efficiency is also a key component of Utah’s 10-Year Strategic Energy Plan and the premise of the subsequent Utah Energy Efficiency and Conservation Plan both of which were developed at the request of Governor Herbert.

Instead of cutting its successful energy-savings programs that conserve energy, Rocky Mountain Power should increase them! We urge Rocky Mountain Power to commit to achieving a higher level of energy savings than in its 2015 plan starting in 2018 and into the future. Utah Clean Energy is working with other stakeholders to address these concerns and will be filing comments with the Utah Public Services Commission this autumn.

Let Rocky Mountain Power and the Governor’s Office of Energy Development know that you support increasing energy-savings programs, not cutting them. Learn how you can join in this effort by contacting Kevin Emerson at .

Thanks to leadership from Salt Lake City and the Salt Lake City Council (with help from your friends at Utah Clean Energy), we have achieved a major win for air quality and climate!  The Salt Lake City Council adopted a new energy efficiency policy that will help large municipal and private buildings save energy and money while cutting pollution.

About The Benchmarking and Transparency Ordinance

This market-based measure works by increasing awareness of a building’s energy performance among building owners, facility managers, and prospective business tenant and investors. By tracking energy performance (“benchmarking”), this improved awareness will encourage voluntary energy improvements for businesses that show opportunities to reduce energy waste.  Increasing the energy efficiency of our buildings helps improve air quality and aids the City in achieving its bold community-wide greenhouse gas emission reduction goal, while simultaneously helping businesses manage utility costs.

The second half of the ordinance is phased-in over several years starting with municipal facilities in 2018 and large private buildings in 2019 or 2020, depending on the size. Beginning in 2020 buildings that are less efficient than the national average will be required to investigate energy “tune-ups” every 5 years, though implementation of the tune-ups remains voluntary.

Utah Clean Energy applauds Mayor Biskupski and the City Council for their leadership on this issue.

For more information contact Kevin Emerson at (801) 608-0850.

Read more about the support of the City’s energy benchmarking proposal

Salt Lake Tribune Guest Editorials

Commentary: Energy transparency ordinance will benefit our economy and health (August 26, 2017)

Building energy efficiency to improve air quality, By Elizabeth Joy & Steve Bergstrom, Intermountain Health Care (May 20, 2017):

Deseret News Guest Editorials

Investing in Salt Lake City's future, By Cliff Majersik, Institute for Market Transformation (Jan. 28, 2017)

A. Scott Anderson: Is your building part of the pollution problem? Time to find out (January 12, 2017)

News Articles

Salt Lake City passes ordinance on benchmarking energy use (USGBC Utah) (September 6, 2017)

Salt Lake City Commercial Building Owners Required To Report Energy Scores (September 1, 2017)

City Council approves energy efficient building ordinance (August 30, 2017)

ASHRAE Congratulates Salt Lake City for Passing Benchmarking Ordinance

Salt Lake City will require commercial building owners to report energy scores (August 30, 2017)

Biskupski proposes new energy efficiency and air quality ordinance (January 18, 2017)

Utah lawmakers consider clean air proposals as inversion settles in Wasatch Front (January 17, 2017)

Biskupski Pitches Ordinance Tracking Energy Use In Large Buildings (January 17, 2017)

Rocky Mountain Power is proposing three new projects, to be funded through their “Sustainable Transportation and Energy Plan” (STEP) program, a 5-year program which can be used to fund projects related to vehicle infrastructure, clean coal research, solar development, utility-scale battery storage, and other innovative technology, economic development and air quality initiatives. The funding for these programs is collected from all customers through a small surcharge on your bill, and the Commission will have to approve each of these proposed projects individually.

Intelligent Charging System

First, RMP is proposing to develop an intelligent charging system to be used at Salt Lake City’s intermodal transit hub, which will serve the electric needs of light rail, electric buses, and passenger vehicle and truck traffic. Electrification of our transportation will require new infrastructure to charge the variety of electric passenger vehicles, trucks, and public transit vehicles that will hit the road in the coming years. Many of these vehicles will be capable of charging at power levels much higher than provided by today’s standard chargers. The “Intermodal Hub Project” will use intelligent algorithms to schedule and prioritize charging needs for a variety of transportation options in order to predict optimal charging times and minimize the amount of new grid infrastructure needed to serve these vehicles. The Intermodal Hub Project is a collaboration between RMP, Utah State University’s Sustainable Electrified Transportation Center and UTA. The proposed control system would be developed at USU and deployed at UTA’s Intermodal Hub in Salt Lake City. Rocky Mountain Power is asking for $1,995,576 to develop a power balance and demand response system for this project.

Battery Demand Response Project

Second, RMP has proposed a “Battery Demand Response Project” in partnership with Wasatch Development to build a new development of 600 housing units, each with a battery that can be controlled by RMP. The batteries will be charged by solar power during the day, and RMP can control the batteries to provide power for residents of the community during peak periods in the evening and at night. The total cost of the project is estimated at $34 million, but RMP is asking for $3.27 million of STEP funding to pay for a demand response system that can be used to control the batteries. RMP also plans to use the data from the project to test and study the deployment of battery storage and to prepare for the deployment of more micro-grid solutions in the future. RMP also plans to hire a third-party consultant to quantify the benefits of the battery storage system and inform rate design for customers with batteries.

Advanced Resiliency Management System

Last, RMP is proposing to use $16.2 million on an “Advanced Resiliency Management System” that will deploy new communications and sensor infrastructure on the grid. This new equipment will allow residential customers to receive more granular (hourly) data about their energy usage. It will also provide more detailed outage information to RMP, allowing the utility to identify and resolve power outages more quickly. The new equipment will be deployed on portions of the grid that serve “critical customers,” including hospitals, trauma centers, and police and fire dispatchers in order to improve system reliability.

“Zero energy” buildings are now a reality. Thanks to highly accessible energy efficiency building technologies coupled with the declining price of solar PV systems, there are now numerous buildings in Utah that are “zero energy” or “zero energy ready”. From everyday homes offered by Garbett Homes and Living Zenith, to community buildings like the Salt Lake City Public Safety Building and two new Salt Lake City fire stations, zero energy buildings are popping up across the Beehive State.

At Utah Clean Energy we are committed to creating a future that ensures healthy, thriving communities for all, empowered and sustained by clean energy. Zero energy buildings are a cornerstone of achieving that vision.

“Zero energy” means that our homes and buildings are designed, built, and operated to dramatically reduce energy consumption and supply all needed from on-site renewable energy systems. These buildings save energy and money, and reduce pollution from day one, helping to improve Utahns’ quality of life for years to come.

Zero energy buildings are energy self-sufficient and more affordable to operate. They will play a central role in addressing our community’s
air quality and climate challenges.

Zero energy buildings are energy self-sufficient and more affordable to operate. They will play a central role in addressing our
community’s air quality and climate challenges. For example,
in 2017 the American Lung Association again ranked the SLC/Provo/Orem area in the top 10 list of most polluted cities
for short term particulate emissions. On a typical winter day, close to 40% of the local air pollution along the Wasatch Front is from emissions caused by our homes, restaurants, commercial buildings, and dry cleaners, etc., and a portion of this is directly from natural gas combustion in buildings. What’s more, energy consumption in Utah’s homes and buildings can contribute well over half of a community’s carbon footprint, making zero energy buildings a critical tool for communities to reduce local and regional emissions that contribute to climate change.

What is a “zero energy building”?

Zero energy homes and buildings are built to be highly energy efficient (through strategies like high insulation levels, natural daylighting, energy efficient lighting, efficient heating and cooling and ventilation, and reduced “plug loads”) and produce as much on-site renewable energy as they consume over the course of a year. This leaves building occupants with a very low energy bill and a carbon emission-free home or building.

Building Local Capacity for Zero Energy Buildings

To accelerate the number of “zero energy” buildings in Utah, Utah Clean Energy recently organized two industry trainings designed to deepen understanding about the many “state of the shelf” technologies that can help homes and buildings reach zero energy status. Each training was supported by the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, AIA Utah, and ILFI’s Great Basin Collaborative. A summary of each training is below, along with the workshop presentations and materials.

DOE Zero Enery ready logo

Zero Energy Ready Homes

On March 13, 2017 Utah Clean Energy hosted a Zero Energy Ready Home training hosted by the Utah Home Builders Association, and supported by AIA Utah and the U.S. Department of Energy’s the Zero Energy Ready Home program. Sam Rashkin, Chief Architect of the program, gave a day-long training that included specifications of a Zero Energy Ready Home, business solutions, and recognition resources. Learn more about the Program using the links above and below. You can also take a virtual tour of Garbett Homes’ ZERH-certified Rosecrest and Chandler projects. Redfish Development’s Living Zenith project is another local example of zero energy homes building built in Utah.

Training materials:training1
Zero Energy Ready Home program brochure
Zero Energy Ready Home National Program Requirements
• Zero Energy Ready Home training slides:
      Part 1
      Part 2
      Part 3
      Part 4

Zero Energy Commercial Buildings

opinion dynamics logoOn April 21, 2017 Utah Clean Energy held a Zero Energy Commercial Building Workshop hosted by the Salt Lake Community College’s Energy Institute and sponsored by Opinion Dynamics. The workshop featured a presentation about common building energy systems in zero energy buildings, case studies from local and regional zero energy buildings, and an overview of the recently updated Net Zero Energy Building Certification.
Workshop materials:
Introduction to zero energy buildings
Common building energy systems survey slides
Case study: Arch|Nexus Sacramento Officenet zero certification logo
Case study: Salt Lake City Fire Station #13 (from Blaloc k and Partners)
Video tour: DPR Construction Phoenix office (Requires WebEx installation)
Rocky Mountain Power Wattsmart Business program and design assistance incentives
Net Zero Energy Building Certification and Offsite Renewables Exceptions from the International Living Future Institute

All Utahns have a personal stake in improving our air quality.  In fact, according to a Utah Foundation Survey, air quality is the #2 most important issue for voters in Utah, and the #1 most important issue for voters along Wasatch Front.  

We are all looking for ways to help improve our air. According to the Utah Division of Air Quality, our restaurants, stores, homes and large commercial buildings contribute nearly 40% of the local air pollution on a typical winter day, making our building stock more efficient is one key strategy to help improve air quality. For example, commercial buildings across the Wasatch Front emit an estimated 6 tons of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) per day on a typical winter day. Innovative strategies to increase the energy efficiency of large buildings can help reduce pollution and also cut energy costs significantly.

Improved energy efficiency in buildings is also the lowest cost strategy to help achieve the City’s community-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal, which is among the most ambitious goals in the nation. This ordinance is essential because efficiency is the cheapest “energy resource.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski has proposed a market-based city ordinance to reduce energy waste and pollution from Salt Lake City’s municipal and large private buildings. The ordinance would eliminate 99 tons of NOx emissions per year and over 280,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year, while cutting energy costs by $27 million city-wide!

Market-Based Solutions: Benchmarking and Energy Tune Ups

envst2The proposed ordinance works by creating market competition for energy efficient commercial buildings.

Like a miles-per-gallon rating on a vehicle, building energy transparency helps owners and business tenants make more informed decisions about managing energy costs.

Large buildings would measure their energy consumption using a free online tool that compares their usage to other similar buildings (this is called “benchmarking”) and then report data back to the City on an annual basis. Benchmarking is free and now automated by Rocky Mountain Power and Dominion Energy (formerly Questar Gas)! The ordinance would phase-in over three years beginning in 2018: beginning with City buildings in 2018, followed by private buildings over 50,000 square feet in 2019, and then private buildings over 25,000 square feet in 2020. Business tenants and building owners would be able to access a list of the most energy efficient buildings. From there, buildings with lower scores will receive targeted assistance to improve their energy performance and complete “energy tune ups” to cut their energy waste and reduce costs.

The financial benefits of this market-based policy are substantial:

  • Businesses would save $9 million in energy costs annually every year through benchmarking alone, and
  • Building owners that conduct energy tune-ups every five years, they would save an additional $18 million in annual energy costs.

Salt Lake City’s proposal is good for our air quality and our economy. It is a thoughtful and proven strategy based on successes in 24 other cities across the U.S. that will put money back into our community, clean our air and improve Salt Lake City’s largest building stock.  Thank you Salt Lake City for your leadership!

What's Next?

A Public Hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, August 8th at 8 pm, and a tentative vote is scheduled for Tuesday, August 29th at 7 pm. The Salt Lake City Council is looking for feedback from those who have an interest in energy efficiency and clean air. Send an email to the City Council today to express your support.

You can learn more by reading Utah Clean Energy’s fact sheet on the energy benchmarking ordinance to get the details.

And if you live in Salt Lake City and would like to help, please email .

Read more about the support of the City’s energy benchmarking proposal

Salt Lake Tribune Guest Editorial
Building energy efficiency to improve air quality, By Elizabeth Joy & Steve Bergstrom, Intermountain Health Care (May 20, 2017):

Deseret News Guest Editorial
Investing in Salt Lake City's future, By Cliff Majersik, Institute for Market Transformation (Jan. 28, 2017)

Deseret News Guest Editorial
A. Scott Anderson: Is your building part of the pollution problem? Time to find out

Utah lawmakers consider clean air proposals as inversion settles in Wasatch Front

Biskupski Pitches Ordinance Tracking Energy Use In Large Buildings

Biskupski proposes new energy efficiency and air quality ordinance

According to the ENERGY STAR program, the average commercial building wastes 30% of the energy it consumes through inefficient operations and technologies, which is a drain on our economy and creates needless pollution. Building energy benchmarking is a critical step in saving energy by empowering building and facility managers with information about their building’s energy performance, and helps target which buildings are ready to save energy, money, and reduce pollution. In Utah, the once arduous process of benchmarking is now streamlined and automated thanks to Salt Lake City, Rocky Mountain Power, and Questar Gas through their participation in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Data Accelerator initiative.

The goal of the Energy Data Accelerator is to connect businesses’ utility accounts with energy benchmarking programs such as ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®. To achieve this goal, Salt Lake City, Rocky Mountain Power, and Questar Gas teamed up to develop an automated benchmarking tool that allows a building representative to connect their energy meters to the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® through an automatic, monthly upload of utility data. Utah Clean Energy was involved in the initiative as well, and we are pleased to report that Rocky Mountain Power’s automated benchmarking tool has already enrolled 85 Utah buildings! What’s more, Questar Gas’ automated benchmarking program is slated for implementation beginning in late 2016.

You Can't Manage What You Don't Measure

Energy waste in buildings is a substantial contributor to local air pollution, posing a challenge to economic development and the quality of life in Salt Lake City and along the Wasatch Front. Building energy benchmarking is the first step in effectively managing energy consumption in commercial buildings. Benchmarking using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® gives building and facility managers an easy to understand ENERGY STAR Score, allowing simple comparison to their baseline energy consumption and other similar buildings. Before the automated benchmarking tool, a significant amount of time and effort was required to manually track down and enter utility data into the Portfolio Manager software. Automated energy benchmarking allows building owners in Utah to benchmark their buildings with significantly less staff time and effort, thus driving greater awareness of energy efficiency opportunities and encouraging the implementation of energy efficiency improvements in commercial buildings.

Rocky Mountain Power’s automated energy benchmarking tool has already earned significant distinction, including recognition by the White House and the U.S. Department of Energy. On the local front, Governor Herbert recently honored Salt Lake City and Rocky Mountain Power as a Finalist for the Governor’s Excellence in Energy Award.

Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability Accepting Comments Through October

Salt Lake City is positioned to become a national leader in maximizing energy efficiency in its largest buildings to reduce air pollution, lower climate emissions, and foster local economic development. The City has put together a draft proposal, now up for review, for a new market-based ordinance that aims to reduce pollution and cut energy costs, by increasing the transparency of energy use in large commercial and industrial buildings across the City.

Support Energy Efficiency Solutions

Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability is accepting public input on the draft proposal. We encourage you to read on to learn more about what this proposal entails, then let the City know that Utahns support their efforts! Comments can be emailed to Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability. Email 

The Department’s proposal includes:

A new city ordinance designed to make a energy performance information accesible and visible to the public. The proposal would require large commercial buildings to (1) track their energy consumption using the free, automated Energy Star Portfolio Manager program, and (2) then submit the building’s Energy Star score to the City each year. A year later, the building’s scores (which are similar to miles-per-gallon ratings on vehicles) would be made available to the public to help businesses, consumers, and investors identify energy efficient buildings. According to City estimates, this ordinance alone would cut energy costs by $9.6 million/year and lower NOx emissions by 29 tons/year. 

Making building energy data transparent will assist efforts to help less efficient buildings access technical and financing resources to make efficeincy improvements. This new data also enables the government and private sectors to instantly recognize and promote energy efficient buildings in our community.

The City is also requesting comments about whether it should also require less efficient buildings to conduct energy “tune-ups” every 5 years. Building energy tune-ups, or “re-commissioning,” represent a high-impact strategy to reduce energy waste at a very low cost. Rather than investing in expensive upgrades, building tune-ups save energy by optimizing and correcting how existing building systems function to ensure energy efficient operation. According to City estimates, including a building tune-up ordinance would further reduce energy costs for participating businesses by $18 million/year and lower NOx emissions by 69 tons/year.

How does this help Utah?

“Area sources,” which include homes, businesses, shopping centers, restaurants, etc. make up 40% of local air pollution, and part of these emissions come from energy use in buildings. Commercial and industrial buildings are also responsible for 60% of SLC’s carbon footprint. Increasing a building’s energy efficiency is a highly affordable strategy to reduce energy waste, lower air pollution and help achieve the City Council and Mayor’s ambitious city-wide energy goals. The City’s proposal will also support local job in Utah's growing energy efficient workforce.

Recent studies show that benchmarking and transparency policies reduce city-wide energy consumption from buildings by 2-4% per year, because building and facility managers become more aware of the relative energy efficiency of their building. And analysis from LBNL found that building re-commissioning cut energy use by 16% on average with a simple payback of only 1.1 years.


There are several opportunities to show your support for bold solutions to reduce energy waste in large buildings across Salt Lake City:

  1. We encourage you to email supportive comments to Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability now. Email 
  2. If you’re a Salt Lake City resident or if your business is located in Salt Lake City, we encourage you to write an email to your City Council representative expressing your support for the Elevate Buildings initiative. Find who your City Council representative is http://www.slccouncil.com/.
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