Los Angeles’ New Comprehensive Energy Benchmarking Program is Under Way

Justin Manalo

Posted by Justin Manalo

Los Angeles joins an expanding list of major American cities that require buildings to conduct energy benchmarking. The ambitious City of Los Angeles Existing Buildings Energy and Water Efficiency Program (EBEWE Program) went into effect this year and is particularly progressive because it requires auditing and retro-commissioning in addition to benchmarking.Los-Angeles_downtown_sunset_josh-rose.jpgPhoto by Josh Rose on Unsplash

The new Los Angeles law complements California’s Energy Benchmarking Law, the first statewide energy benchmarking program. The EBEWE Program will help Los Angeles reach its 2035 goal to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent from a 1990 baseline.

Part of Sustainable City pLAn

Released in April 2015, the Los Angeles Sustainable CIty pLAn (pLAn) sets forth goals for the next 20 years and addresses the environment, economy, and equity. The pLAn is a framework for how the City is managed, establishes priorities, and contains strategies for addressing Los Angeles’ challenges.

According to the pLAn, buildings are Los Angeles’ largest electricity consumers as well as a significant source of greenhouse gases. Any energy efficient retrofits can result in lower energy costs in addition to increasing sustainability. As part of its strategies to increase building energy efficiency, the pLAn calls for the creation of an energy benchmarking policy.

New Ordinance Creates Benchmarking Program Requirements

The Los Angeles City Council passed Ordinance No. 184674 (Ordinance) amending the Los Angeles Municipal Code in December 2016 to establish energy benchmarking requirements. The EBEWE Program applies to buildings that are:

  • City owned buildings of 7,500 square feet or greater;
  • Privately owned of 20,000 square feet or greater; and
  • State agency owned of 20,000 square feet or greater.

Annual Benchmarking Reports

Building owners must annually submit a Benchmarking Report to the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS or Department). To create the Benchmarking Report, a building owner is required to use the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s online tool ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager that summarizes a building’s annual energy and water performance data.

The Ordinance specifies the types of data that must be entered into ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. The building owner or their representative is also required to use ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to run a quality check on the Benchmarking Report before submitting it to LADBS.

A building owner is exempt from filing a Benchmarking Report for the entire calendar year a building did not have a Certificate of Occupancy (including Temporary), was not occupied due to renovation, had a demolition permit and demolition started, or did not receive energy or water services.

LADBS will make some of the Benchmarking Report data available to the public including annual summary statistics for a building. This sharing of information is intended to encourage building owners to compare their data with that of similar buildings to see if there are ways to improve energy efficiency.

Benchmarking Report Schedule

The Ordinance phases in the the due dates for the initial Benchmarking Report submission to LADBS based on the building’s type and size:

  • November 1, 2017 (LADBS requested extension from July 1, 2017 deadline) - City owned buildings of 7,500 square feet or greater and privately or state owned buildings of 100,000 square feet or greater.
  • April 1, 2018 - privately or state owned buildings of 50,000 or greater but less than 100,000 square feet.
  • April 1, 2019 - privately or state owned buildings of 20,000 or greater but less than 50,000 square feet.

For all of building types, the annual Benchmarking Report for years subsequent to the initial report is due by April 1 of each year.

Audit and Retro-Commissioning Requirements

Any buildings subject to the EBEWE Program must undertake an energy and water audit and retro-commissioning following specified standards of the American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers and be supervised by a California licensed engineer or architect.

The Ordinance also lists a variety of exemptions from the energy and water audit and retro-commissioning requirements. For example, an energy audit and retro-commissioning are not required for buildings that have received an ENERGY STAR Certification for the year compliance is due or two of the three years prior to the date compliance is due.

Proof that a building falls under one of the audit and retro-commissioning exemptions must be submitted to LADBS. The Department will determine whether the exemption applies for each reporting cycle.

Audit and Retro-Commissioning Report Schedule

The schedule for submitting the energy and water audit and retro-commissioning reports is phased in with the first compliance due date falling anywhere from the beginning of 2019 to the end of 2023. The initial due date is based on a building’s last number of the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Identification Number. Subsequent reports are due every five years after the initial report.

A building may receive an extension of time for report submittal if it can be shown that a building is temporarily under financial or legal distress, submitting a report will materially interfere with a building’s Rent Escrow Account Program compliance, or some other hardship is preventing compliance with the audit and retro-commissioning requirement.

Additional Requirements and Fees

Building owners are responsible for maintaining records that relate to the EBEWE Program requirements for at least five years. This includes documents such as bills and reports provided by tenants and utilities.

The fee for submitting to LADBS the annual Benchmarking Report is $61.00 and Confirmation of Audit and Retro Commissioning is $183.00. A surcharge is also added to the feel total which is six percent of the fee or one dollar, whichever is greater.

A non-compliance fee of $202.00 is assessed when a building fails to comply with the EBEWE Program.

Resources and Compliance Assistance

LADBS provides helpful information on its website to assist with generating and submitting a Benchmarking Report. Buildings that must comply should have received a letter from LADBS stating their compliance due date.

According to the Department’s instructions, a building should first register with LADBS using the building identification number found in the official letter or Building Information Online. Once this is completed, it is necessary to create an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager account. Portfolio Manager should be used to conduct benchmarking for the relevant year, run a quality check, and add the City of LA Building ID to the Benchmarking Report.

The Benchmarking Report should be submitted to LADBS through a building’s Portfolio Manager account. LADBS has an instructional guide explaining how to use Portfolio Manager to add the City of LA Building ID and send the benchmarking information to LADBS.

There are other helpful resources for assistance with the EBEWE Program. The United States Better Buildings Challenge has a website devoted to providing information about the EBEWE Program, LA Energy & Water Efficiency Resource Center, including the comprehensive Los Angeles Benchmarking Guide. The ENERGY STAR program also maintains a list of professionals who can assist with benchmarking.

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