Minneapolis opens energy efficiency to the free market


Last Friday the Minneapolis City Council approved an ordinance amendment that will ask city buildings, public entity buildings, and larger commercial buildings to disclose energy and water consumption information to the public. The goal of this policy is to allow market forces to influence the efficiency of buildings in the city, concurrently producing jobs, economic growth, and reducing environmental impact. Those interested in leasing space within a commercial building or investing in large commercial properties can be more informed about their investment decisions while increasing the resale value of efficient properties, motivating building owners to invest in efficient building systems and design.

To hone this policy and provide public support, Minneapolis city officials consulted with building owners, property management companies, utilities, and other cities that have implemented similar policy. The disclosing will be rolled out in phases over the next three years, starting this year with all city buildings over 25,000 square feet and by 2016 ramping up to include commercial buildings that are 50,000 square feet or larger.

Source: Institute for Market Transformation

The ordinance is estimated to affect only 630 buildings in Minneapolis when the proposed program is completely in motion (2015/2016). Compared to other cities like Austin, New York, Boston and the District of Columbia, that have enacted similar ordinances, a smaller percentage of Minneapolis buildings will be required to participate in disclosure of their energy and water consumption, as most other cities require smaller commercial buildings and even multi-family housing buildings to participate. Despite this, involvement at this scale will be inclusive enough to provide a marketplace around energy efficiency, providing proof of such system in urban Minnesota.

The City Council decision was aimed at positively affecting the local economy and environment by attracting industry, creating jobs, and increasing energy efficiency, a mechanism for achieving a number of the city’s 2012 Sustainability Indicators. This amendment was supported by many parties and was brought forth by the Green Building subcommittee from Thinc.GreenMSP, a collaboration between Minneapolis and St. Paul intended to “retain, grow, and attract green-manufacturing jobs”. This policy exemplifies how transparency is creating opportunities for green jobs and making efficiency the easier choice for Minnesotans.