Efficient energy use

Energy efficiency: Plenty of data, many confused landlords

November 21, 2011: 11:03 AM ET

City governments and clean energy investors want to get the ball rolling on bringing energy efficiency  to buildings across the country, but there's confusion over how to start.

By Alec Appelbaum, contributor

electric_meters

FORTUNE -- Have you ever heard of business owners wanting government regulators to come in and collect more information on their activities?

For landlords working at the dawn of carbon emissions regulation, that seems increasingly likely to be the case as more cities require building owners to disclose how much energy they use.

In several office markets, landlords now must measure and report their energy use, in a process called benchmarking. New York City and Washington, D.C. city agencies have been collecting data and promise to sift through it to come up with energy policies for property owners. The same goes for Austin, Texas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle- and more jurisdictions are mulling the idea.

Rules vary by location. In New York, owners of buildings greater than 50,000 square feet must tally energy bills for the government, which has set up an office to dissect them. In cities like Seattle, sellers of smaller buildings must share the data. And in Austin, if you want to sell a house, you must disclose the property's energy costs to interested buyers.

While many cities are measuring energy use in order to reduce fossil fuel and lower the risk of overtaxing aged energy grids, the scalable changes to building management -- and the real business edge -- may come from the harder work of measuring carbon emissions.

Energy info in search of a purpose?

Cities want landlords to both push less carbon into the air and put less strain on aging electricity grids. But many building owners are not always certain what they can do with the information that's being collected -- or who can best help them decide. More

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