10 major cities form City Energy Project

Mayors from 10 major U.S. cities are working together under the City Energy Project to significantly increase energy efficiency in buildings — their biggest source of energy demand and carbon pollution.

Funded by a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, it is being managed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Institute for Market Transformation.

The 10 cities, with more to follow, are Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago, Kansas City, Houston, Denver, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles.

"We have the skills and technology to make buildings more efficient, but we need a coordinated effort by major cities and the private sector to make it happen," said Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation.

Each city will receive funds to hire a full-time consultant (for three years) that crafts and helps the city implement a customized efficiency plan that builds on programs already underway. The consultant also will facilitate interaction between cities to share best practices.

"There are a lot of models out there — we'll be helping walk some of the cities through the options," Laurie Kerr of NRDC told Midwestern News. "There are a mixture of options cities are looking at — some are ordinances, some are policies or programs, ways of providing financing, working with a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program or creating an energy efficiency financing entity."

Key strategies:

• Provide information about building energy use that will help
owners and managers cut waste

• Align financial incentives for energy efficiency

• Ensure that building systems function optimally

• Encourage leadership from universities, hospitals and other major stakeholders.

"With U.S. buildings consuming more primary energy than countries like Russia and India, the scale of the opportunity to optimize building energy performance is significant," said John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer of UTC Building & Industrial Systems. "Cities collaborating and implementing creative, practical energy efficiency policies can go a long way to reducing America's $450 billion annual energy bill and carbon emissions."

Largely due to electricity consumption, buildings emit 40 percent of U.S. carbon pollution, the largest single source in the United States. At the city level, over half of carbon emissions come from buildings and can be as high as 75 percent. Worst of all, much of that energy is wasted.

In Chicago, for example, its tall buildings produce 71 percent of the city's greenhouse gas emissions and require some $3 billion a year for operations. In NYC, 75 to 80 percent of emissions come from large buildings.

"With 10 cities involved, it will impact hundreds and thousands of buildings, which will lead to an extraordinary impact," Karen Weigert, Chicago's chief sustainability officer, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Image of Chicago at night by Mike Liu via Shutterstock