Study tracks carbon footprint of city’s largest buildings

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The city’s largest commercial buildings could collectively save an estimated $11 million in energy costs each year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 62,000 metric tons by cutting energy use 10 percent, according to a new city analysis.

Of the city’s 146 largest commercial properties, 27 are high performers when it comes to energy efficiency, 51 buildings are above average and 68 are below average, according to the city’s latest Energy Benchmarking Report, which analyzed energy use in 2013.

Owners and managers of buildings larger than 50,000 square feet in the city are required to disclose energy use. The city and Xcel Energy have partnered on a new web-based tool that makes it easier for building managers to provide the information to the city.

The energy use of the 365 buildings tracked by the city accounts for 26 percent of the city’s commercial and industrial greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, commercial and industrial buildings’ energy use is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the city and makes up 47 percent of the city’s emissions.

The transportation sector is the second biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Minneapolis followed by residential energy use. 

Hospitals, hotels and schools have the most potential to become more energy efficient, according to the city’s latest report.

Some of the most energy-efficient buildings highlighted in the report include the Health Services building, Century Plaza and Family Justice Center (all owned by Hennepin County); City Hall, which is jointly owned by the county and city; and Green Central Park Elementary in South Minneapolis. 

The buildings were scored using ENERGY STAR, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) voluntary program that helps business and individuals become more energy efficient.

The city’s water treatment and distribution campus was one of the highest energy users tracked in the report along with the Park Board’s Parade Ice Garden in the Kenwood neighborhood.

The city has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent this year compared to emission levels in 2006. Future targets include a 30 percent reduction by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050. City leaders have also set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its municipal operations 1.5 percent each year. 

Brendon Slotterback, the city’s sustainability program coordinator, said Minneapolis is on track to meet its emissions reduction goals.

Emissions from 2013 (the most recent data available) were down about 9 percent from 2006 levels, he said. The city basically met its 2015 goal in 2012, but emissions rose slightly in 2013 because of the extremely cold winter, which drove up natural gas usage, he said.

In other local energy news, the Clean Energy Partnership — a new collaboration among the city, Xcel and CenterPoint Energy — approved its two-year work plan at a board meeting May 29.

The group’s work is driven by the city’s Climate Action Plan, which includes the greenhouse gas emissions goals.

The partnership is focused on increasing participation in renewable energy programs and helping residents and businesses become more energy efficient. Partnership leaders are also working on a system to track progress on achieving the city’s environmental goals. 

Mayor Betsy Hodges, chair of the Clean Energy Partnership, noted that Minneapolis ranks seventh on a list of the most energy-efficient large cities in America. The Biennial Energy Efficiency Scorecard compiled by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy ranked Boston number one on the list, followed by New York City, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. Minneapolis was also noted as being among the most-improved cities on energy efficiency since the last scorecard was issued.

“Every resident and investor in Minneapolis will be impacted by the two-year work plan we adopted today,” Hodges said. “The plan addresses climate change, affordable, and reliable service, and will give residents access to more efficient, clean, and renewable energy. Input from the community has played an important role in this process and I hope it continues as we move forward with our work.”

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Top performers on energy efficiency

(Based on ENERGY STAR score)

Note: The city’s 2013 Energy Benchmarking Report only disclosed scores of publically owned buildings — not private buildings. ENERGY STAR scores rank buildings on a 1–100-point scale. A score of 75 or better indicates a building that is a top performer and eligible for the ENERGY STAR certification.

— Health Services Building, 525 Portland Ave. S.

— Century Plaza, 330 S. 12th St.

— Family Justice Center, 110 S. 4th St.

— City Hall, 350 S. 5th St.

— 701 Building, 701 4th Ave. S.  

— Green Park Elementary, 3416 4th Ave. S. 

(Note: The Journals’ have been tracking energy issues and local efforts to address climate change as part of its Confronting Climate Change series.)