Philadelphia looks to track energy use for large commercial buildings

June 11, 2012

Commercial buildings account for roughly 40 percent of the total energy use in the U.S., a number that the government is trying to reduce as more efficient practices are being promoted around the country.

Certain cities are becoming increasingly involved in reducing consumption levels for commercial buildings, including Philadelphia, an area that contains the Department of Energy's innovation Hub for the sector.

The Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) is an effort that is devoted to design, development and implementation of more efficient building technology and practices. The EEB Hub is looking to transform the retrofit market in the city of Philadelphia, and in doing so is hoping to reduce energy costs and consumptions for structures in the region.

The city council in Philadelphia is also looking to combat the rising level of energy use, as it is examining a bill that would mandate buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to have their energy use tracked, according to Newsworks.

"Building energy-efficiency programs represent one of our best opportunities to achieve cost-effective reductions in emissions and efficiency improvements," Elizabeth Murphy, who works for PECO, a utility company in the city, told the news outlet. She noted that increasing the efficiency of buildings would help everyone, not just the owners of these properties.

Newsworks reported that this move has been supported by some in the industry due to the fact that comparing energy efficiency levels for buildings is the only way to stimulate progress.

"I can liken it to something like a cholesterol test … you can get a cholesterol test that says your cholesterol is 210 but it doesn't mean anything unless you are benchmarking it against some standard," said Paul Spiegel, an energy consultant.

According to the news outlet, many of the city's buildings are more than 30 years old and proponents of the benchmarking bill have noted it would encourage property owners to make upgrades and enact retrofit projects.

These projects to help increase the energy efficiency of buildings come at a time when global investment in renewable energy has reached a new high.

According to Today's Energy Solutions, the total investment in renewables reached a record $257 billion, a 17 percent increase from the year before. China still is outpacing the U.S. in terms of investment, but the gap is closing.