City introduces program to help commercial building owners save money

Last week, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and Alders Tag Evers, Regina Vidaver, and Grant Foster introduced a proposal to advance the Building Energy Savings Program (BESP). The program aims to help commercial building owners increase the energy efficiency of their buildings, save money, and reduce their carbon footprint, according to a statement from the city.

In Madison, commercial buildings are responsible for 30% of carbon emissions, and large commercial buildings account for a substantial portion of that total due to their size and complexity. The new, proposed Building Energy Savings code introduced at the Jan. 3 meeting of the Common Council aims to improve energy efficiency in these large commercial buildings through energy benchmarking and tune-ups.

Under the new code, commercial buildings 25,000 square feet and larger would be required to benchmark energy use annually using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager — a free, online tool developed by the U.S. EPA. Benchmarking provides information to building owners and managers about how their building’s energy use compares to other similar buildings, how it changes over time, and ways to save energy. Buildings that benchmark typically reduce their energy use by 8 to 10% over time.

Commercial buildings 50,000 square feet and larger would also be required to complete a building tune-up once every four years. On average, tune-ups reduce energy use by 12% and pay back in two to three years. Tune-ups aim to make sure a building is running at its best without wasting energy.

The BESP proposal will be reviewed by the city’s Economic Development Committee and Sustainable Madison Committee before returning to the Common Council for a decision, which is anticipated on Feb. 7.