San Francisco’s Newly Adopted Clean Electricity Requirement

November 4, 2019

San Francisco’s Newly Adopted Clean Electricity Requirement: A Doubling Down On Commercial Buildings To Achieve 100 Percent Renewable Electricity By 2030

San Francisco has long been at the forefront of implementing innovative policies and programs aimed at making the city healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable. Given the array of initiatives focused on reducing emissions, it is no wonder San Francisco was ranked second by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy on its national Clean Energy Scorecard. In September 2019, San Francisco made another bold move when its Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to add a renewable energy requirement for the city’s commercial buildings to the mix. This new legislation augments existing energy benchmarking and energy audit requirements targeting the city’s second largest source of emissions – its buildings.

San Francisco’s Newly Adopted Clean Electricity Requirement

Although details regarding implementation have yet to be released, the newly adopted clean electricity requirement calls on commercial buildings to procure 100 percent clean energy from the city’s load serving entities.

"We must continue to lead the way in the fight against climate change, and we know that the building sector is a major contributor of climate-changing greenhouse gases.” - Mayor London Breed.

The requirement will be phased in over several years starting in 2022 by focusing on the city’s largest buildings – those greater than 500,000 square feet. With buildings accounting for 44 percent of San Francisco’s citywide greenhouse gas emissions, it is expected that the legislation will further reduce emissions by 21 percent in addition to advancing the city’s goal of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030. At present, the timeline for compliance is as follows:

Covered BuildingsCompliance Deadline
Commercial buildings greater than 500,000 square feet2022
Commercial buildings greater than 250,000 square feet2024
Commercial buildings greater than 50,000 square feet2030

As with existing energy benchmarking and audit requirements, the commercial building renewable energy requirement will be administered by the San Francisco Department of Environment. More information regarding the policy is expected to be released in the coming months.

Refresher On San Francisco’s Energy Benchmarking Policy

Passed back in 2011, San Francisco was among a handful of U.S. cities to pioneer the implementation of energy benchmarking and audit requirements for commercial buildings. As of June 2019, more than 30 municipalities had adopted some sort of benchmarking policy with the hopes of reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

  • As with the newly adopted clean electricity requirement, San Francisco’s Existing Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance was phased in over the course of several years. The policy now requires that all commercial buildings greater than 10,000 square feet benchmark building performance and electronically submit an Annual Energy Benchmarking Summary report to the San Francisco Department of Environment on or before April 1, of each calendar year. The Annual Energy Benchmarking Summary report is completed using Energy Star Portfolio Manager (ESPM), a free online benchmarking tool, and includes:

• Contact information;
• Gross square footage (GSF);
• Energy Use Intensity (EUI);
• Energy Star Score (if applicable);
• GHG emissions; and
• The accessor’s parcel number or block/lot.

All benchmarking results, including compliance status, are made publicly available. Significantly, submitting a benchmarking report with the San Francisco Department of Environment meets both the city and state’s energy benchmarking requirements.

Under the benchmarking ordinance, the San Francisco Department of Environment is equipped with three enforcement mechanisms. First, non-compliant building owners are issued a written notice of violation. Once more than 30 days have passed following the report submission deadline, the property is officially listed as non-compliant on the publicly available dataset. Finally, 45 days after a written notice of violation is issued, the Department of Environment may levy fines of up to $2,500 for buildings greater than 25,000 square feet or up to $1,500 for smaller buildings.

Commercial Building Energy Audit Requirement

In addition to energy benchmarking, San Francisco’s Existing Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance requires non-exempt commercial buildings to undergo an energy audit performed by a qualified professional once every five years. For buildings greater than 50,000 square feet an ASHRAE level 2 audit is required. Smaller buildings need only adhere to ASHRAE level 1 standards. By performing an energy audit, building owners and operators are provided with a business case for specific measures and upgrades that can be implemented to improve efficiency and overall performance. Several exemptions exist for high performance buildings, new construction, unoccupied buildings and where financial distress.

How Modern Energy Management Practices Can Improve Performance And Avoid The Need For Energy Audits

While energy audits are useful in identifying opportunities to improve building performance, the opportunities identified are also at risk of quickly becoming obsolete. This is due to the fact that energy audits are performed at a set point in time without the ability to anticipate future changes in building performance due to occupant behavior, extreme weather events, equipment failures, and more. Implementing modern energy management practices can help to avoid the need for energy audits by continuously identifying savings opportunities through real-time building systems analysis made possible through advanced submetering and the implementation of Energy Management Information Systems like BuildingOS.

Unlock Savings Opportunities With Our Building Energy Management Software

There are many ways to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions to help comply with San Francisco’s Existing Buildings Energy Performance Ordinance, but perhaps one of the most important step is fully understanding your current energy usage– and that’s where we come in. BuildingOS is a comprehensive software platform that centralizes all of your building systems and utility data, automates Energy Star reporting, and allows you to understand and act on real-time data to continuously improve operational efficiency and reduce energy consumption. Want to see how BuildingOS can help improve your building portfolio? Contact us today!