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City of Madison Developing New Commercial Energy Savings Program

There are upcoming opportunities for Madison businesses to provide feedback on a proposed program that would place new energy efficiency requirements on certain buildings in the City of Madison. The proposed Building Energy Savings Program would require commercial buildings 25,000 square feet and larger to annual report building energy use to the City of Madison. For commercial buildings 50,000 square feet or larger, improvement “tune-ups” would need to be reported every four years.

The proposal would currently exempt buildings less than 25,000 square feet, residential buildings, parking lots and garages, as well as buildings used for industrial or manufacturing purposes. For tenant occupied spaces, building owners would need to work with tenants to meet the program requirements. The desired timeline is for the program to be adopted this year with compliance beginning in 2024.

The stated goals of energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions are shared business goals. Taking a mandatory approach to energy benchmarking is not new or innovative and has failed in the past.  

What is Benchmarking? 

In 2013, the city originally proposed mandating energy benchmarking for certain types of buildings in the City of Madison. Energy benchmarking is the practice of comparing a facility’s energy usage to the energy usage of similar facilities to assess opportunities for improvement. When done voluntarily and where the information is confidential, benchmarking can be a useful tool to assess energy management.   

While supportive of energy benchmarking as a practice, the Chamber had several concerns with the proposed mandatory approach. For starters, it would result in required upfront consultant costs to business without producing any actual energy savings. Importantly, employer data is proprietary and must also be protected. In the 2013 proposal, local government would collect the data, allowing for the information to potentially be shared publicly without context of building use and consumption needs. Lastly, the past proposal required businesses to pay for energy audits to verify the collected data is accurate.  

Ultimately, the Chamber’s concerns were addressed with the passage of a substitute proposal that directed the City Engineer to establish a Public/Private Voluntary Benchmarking Program. To date, that legislative requirement has not been pursued.  

What happens next? 

City leaders have emphasized that they want a collaborative process in the development of this new program. Businesses are invited to attend upcoming workshops to gather input on the program design on July 20, July 27 and August 3 at 1:00 p.m. We will include any relevant information in our weekly emails. Do not hesitate to reach out to Chamber staff with any questions, thoughts or concerns.   

Register for the meeting and workshops here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/368559039007

The Chamber will continue to be actively engaged in these discussions and recommend sustainable and impactful approaches to meet shared goals of reducing carbon emissions.