Salt Lake City Leads on Building Efficiency and Air Quality

Salt Lake City Leads on Building Efficiency and Air Quality
09 June 2017

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