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Leggett Signs Energy Benchmarking Bill For Commercial Properties

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 5/2/2014, 9:15am  ET

The new NRC office building at White Flint (file photo)Among the seven energy bills County Executive Isiah Leggett signed on Thursday was an energy benchmarking bill that made Montgomery County the first county in the country to require private commercial property owners to make public their energy efficiency measurements.

The bill, sponsored by Councilmember Roger Berliner in a package of nine laws and zoning changes passed by the Council last week, was “a watershed moment for Montgomery County,” Leggett said.

The benchmarking requirement might have been even stronger. The bill originally proposed by Berliner included requirements for property owners to do an audit on their buildings and to make the energy efficiency improvements those audits called for.

Commercial real estate developers and property owners almost immediately pushed back, saying the requirements would be too costly.

“I knew we were pushing the envelope. The building owners and the development community said, ‘Oh my goodness Roger.’ I felt that I had gone not one bridge too far, but two bridges too far,” Berliner said. “So I took some of those provisions out and started with the county first.”

Similar to benchmarking bills in major cities, the law signed Thursday will require county-owned buildings to benchmark first and by June 1, 2015. There will then be a six-month work group to analyze how the county benchmarking process went and suggest any changes for commercial property owners.

Buildings greater than 250,000 square feet will have to comply with the law by December 2016. Buildings greater than 50,000 square feet will have to comply by 2017.

Berliner said his hope is that making energy usage public information, coupled with the a county loan fund to help commercial property owners make energy improvements, will bring property owners together with companies that finance energy efficient retrofits.

Other bills signed by Leggett on Thursday included one that requires the county to use a company that installs LED lights in its next street light contract. One bill requires the county get 50 percent of its electric power from renewable energy resources by next year and 100 percent by 2016. Another bill speeds up the permitting process for installing electric vehicle charging stations.