Lost amid the more high profile items in Massachusetts’ recently enacted Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind is a requirement that the Department of Energy Resources establish a program requiring large buildings across the Commonwealth to report energy usage on an annual basis.   The requirement goes into effect on July 1, 2024, but DOER has an additional year (until July 1, 2025) to draft implementing regulations and establish the parameters of the reporting program.   Once the program is up and running, the data will be made publicly available on DOER’s website on a building-by-building basis.  The law requires reporting for buildings with at least 20,000 sf of gross floor area, but DOER may lower that threshold by regulation.  The reporting burden falls on both building owners and distribution companies.

Building-specific energy usage data collection of this type is widely seen as laying the groundwork for future building decarbonization efforts, including the establishment of building emissions performance standards.   The cities of Boston and Cambridge (and most recently Chelsea) already have building energy disclosure ordinances, each of which require annual reporting of energy usage for large buildings (Boston and Chelsea at a threshold of 20,000 sf, Cambridge at 25,000 sf).  And Boston is now layering emission reduction requirements on top of those disclosures.

Seven years after passing its first building energy reporting and disclosure ordinance (now known as BERDO 1.0), Boston last fall passed a building emissions reduction and disclosure ordinance (known as BERDO 2.0).  Using the data gathered under the first ordinance for benchmarking, Boston has set declining emissions targets starting in 2025 with an end goal of net zero emissions for all large buildings by 2050.   While Boston is still working out the details, including how renewable energy credits and power purchase agreements will play into compliance, it is clearly headed down a path of building decarbonization (see our recent post on Boston’s efforts to ban fossil fuel hookups in new construction and major renovations).

So how will this play out for the regulated community in Massachusetts?  In response to concerns about the potential for conflicting reporting requirements at the local and state level, Boston has promised to work with DOER during the adoption of the statewide program to share expertise and lessons learned.  Time will tell whether the Commonwealth follows Boston’s lead and ultimately sets emissions reduction standards for the building sector as well.  Don’t bet against it.

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