“You can’t save what you can’t measure” is a phrase often used in the energy efficiency world. For the last four years, New York City has been closely measuring its energy use in large buildings, and the savings are accruing!

The Department of Energy’s new study, New York City Benchmarking and Transparency Policy Impact Evaluation Report, published in May 2015, reports that New York City has decreased its energy use by 5.7% since 2010, when benchmarking and transparency laws were enacted. The study uses DOE methodology to assess energy savings, determine challenges, and address barriers to further progress. The report also reviews broader implications for New York City and other cities nationwide.

Officials in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy said that, “Top-line findings from the NYC report are that covered buildings reduced energy use by 5.7% between 2010 and 2013 while NYC’s GDP grew and electricity prices fell.  More importantly, the findings suggest that early indicators of market transformation are beginning to appear, so that the policies are likely to have their intended long-term effects of changing the way the real estate sector looks at energy efficiency.” Even in its infancy, NYC’s benchmarking law represents great potential for change.

New York City is a national leader in energy efficiency. The 2009 Greener, Greater Buildings Plan mandated that NYC become one of the first cities to annually benchmark its large buildings (Local Law 84). Approximately 13,000 properties representing 1.5 billion square feet are required to benchmark every year. Within the first 3 years, the study found that covered buildings reduced their weather normalized source energy use by 5.7%. Additionally, greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 8.3%, and the market for auditors grew, creating 7,000 new jobs.

In addition to looking at the change in energy consumption, the report explores the causes of these savings. In the past few years GDP and population have increased while electricity prices decreased. One might imagine that this would cause an increase in energy use. However, the data shows just the opposite. Building owners and tenants, especially in the commercial sector, are becoming more aware of energy conservation and laws and codes surrounding efficiency.

Implementing energy efficiency policy has had great economic, environmental, and social impacts in New York City. As we continue to track the changes in the City’s energy use, there will be greater opportunity for improvement. The City is already primed for programs, such as the Retrofit Accelerator, that will help increase the rate of energy efficiency retrofits.

The Building Energy Exchange’s upcoming report, Retrofitting Affordability, looks at one year of benchmarking and audit data in order to classify which buildings and energy efficiency retrofit measures have the greatest potential for carbon reduction, and how these benefits relate to affordability and the City’s climate action plan. Additionally, the report identifies opportunities to continue the savings trend and to add to mayor’s retrofit accelerator.

Please join us on Thursday, June 18 for the celebratory launch of BEEx’s Retrofitting Affordability report.  

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