The City of Atlanta has a goal to become a top-tier city for sustainability. In that spirit, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability developed Power to Change, Atlanta’s sustainability initiative, through a participatory process and collaboration with several hundred stakeholders. Power to Change includes the goal of reducing commercial energy consumption 20% by 2020.

The Atlanta Commercial Energy Efficiency Ordinance was developed over the course of eight months, and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability held over 165 meetings with stakeholders in crafting the policy. Atlanta’s City Council unanimously voted to approve the ordinance on April 20th, 2015. Analysis by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability shows that the ordinance can produce hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits to the private sector, driving direct investment in our local community, creating jobs, and improving public health simultaneously as energy-related emissions are reduced.

The ordinance focuses on overcoming information barriers to energy efficiency and to allow the market to utilize that new-found knowledge as a driver to reward efficient performance. At full implementation, this will require owners of commercial buildings over 25,000 square feet to benchmark energy and water consumption on an annual basis. Without taking this step, many opportunities to improve the economic performance and resource efficiency of a building are overlooked; as the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Benchmark information will be reported to the City annually, where it will be made publicly available to inform the market – better decisions will be made with better information, creating a better-functioning marketplace. Every ten years, these buildings will be required to undertake an energy audit, where a professional walks through the building and makes recommendations on how to improve the efficiency and operation of the building. Owners are free to choose which, if any, of these recommendations to implement; the point is to understand the potential for improvement and allow the owners to make the best business decisions.

The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability anticipates that this particular policy will take Atlanta more than halfway to meeting the goals of Power to Change. It will also save Atlanta businesses over $100 million in 2020, creating over 1,000 full-time jobs in that year. Atlanta has also long-suffered the public health costs caused by the consumption of energy, recently ranking 16th in asthma and allergy rates, and having long-standing non-attainment issues with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards established by the Clean Air Act. Commercial buildings are the single largest sector of energy consumption within the city, and as a result, the largest source of polluting emissions in the city. This ordinance reduces emissions while saving the commercial sector money. As Mayor Reed said, “This is the right step for the City of Atlanta, and shows our leadership on the national stage.”

To learn more, a Webinar Recording providing an overview of the Atlanta Commercial Building Energy Efficiency Ordinance (15-O-1101) is available.