Toronto puts energy reporting proposal on pause

Parks and environment committee moves to await anticipated province-wide requirement
Monday, June 22, 2015
By Michelle Ervin

Odds are, an energy reporting requirement for large buildings is coming to Toronto. The question that remains is: Will it come from the city or from the province?

Today, Toronto’s parks and environment committee put a benchmarking bylaw proposal on pause while it waits on an anticipated announcement about a province-wide regulation. If the Ministry of Energy fails to come forward with a regulation by the end of 2015, city staff will proceed with its work on a Toronto-specific requirement.

The city’s move is in step with the views expressed by the Building Owners and Managers Association’s local chapter (BOMA Toronto), the Canada Green Building Council’s (CaGBC) Greater Toronto chapter, and the Real Property Association of Canada (REALpac), who would prefer to see a province-wide requirement. Bala Gnanam, director of sustainability and building technologies at BOMA Toronto, was on hand to speak at this morning’s committee meeting.

“We support the city’s initiatives to promote building efficiency and performance and the reduction of greenhouse gases,” said Gnanam. “However, as an organization representing owners and managers who own and manage buildings across Ontario, we recommend that the energy reporting and benchmarking be handled by the Ministry of Energy in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and the City of Toronto.”

Toronto city staff began investigating energy reporting and benchmarking requirements for large buildings at the direction of the parks and environment committee last spring. Following a late summer 2014 update, staff consulted stakeholders including industry associations as well as building owners and managers such as Allied Properties, Cadillac Fairview and GWL. The joint city-province consultation centred on the city’s policy proposal, which has three parts.

Part one is a requirement to report annual energy and water consumption using Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Part two is a requirement to have certified experts, such as architects or engineers, periodically verify reports. Part three is to make publicly available building-level data — excluding financial, personal and proprietary information — in an open-source format. City staff would also analyze building data and produce annual reports highlighting Toronto-wide trends.

The benchmarking bylaw, as contemplated, would apply to commercial, industrial and multi-residential buildings measuring greater than 50,000 square feet. Staff suggested that, if the city were to proceed with a Toronto-specific bylaw, the requirement would be phased in, starting with buildings greater than 250,000 square feet and gradually rolling out to smaller buildings.

Based on the city’s consultation, staff found that the market is ready for energy reporting requirements. Most property managers are already benchmarking as a matter of ‘good housekeeping,’ staff said in a presentation. There is also a consensus that Energy Star Portfolio Manager, a free online offering from Natural Resources Canada, is the best tool to use.

One challenge identified through the consultation is the ability of multi-residential building owners to access data from utility companies in buildings that are submetered. Other concerns included that proprietary and sensitive information be excluded from public disclosure and that data be normalized to ensure fair comparisons between buildings.

City staff said there was more work to be done (again, if Toronto moves forward with its own bylaw), but expressed confidence that the remaining hurdles could be overcome.

Under Toronto’s proposed regime, a benchmarking bylaw would apply to approximately 3,000 buildings totaling 500-million square feet. City staff estimate that, by 2035, the benefits of energy reporting would add up as follows: $1.9-billion in utility cost savings, 21-million equivalent megawatt hours in energy savings and 3.3-million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions avoided. The policy would essentially deliver 20 per cent of the 80-per-cent reduction in emissions Toronto has committed to achieving by 2050.

City staff endorsed energy reporting and benchmarking, saying industry likewise supports it. Ultimately, though, staff recommended holding off on a bylaw proposal in anticipation of an announcement from the Ministry of Energy this summer about a province-wide requirement.

In an emailed statement, a Ministry of Energy spokesperson said: “If the Ministry of Energy decides to proceed with the initiative, the Ministry would post its policy proposal to the Environmental Registry and Regulatory Registry for public comment.”

Toronto’s parks and environment committee passed a motion asking staff to report back on how the city will support the province in the implementation of an Ontario requirement. If the province fails to proceed with its own requirement by Dec. 31, 2015, adds the motion, city staff are to report back with a proposed Toronto-specific bylaw and implementation plan.

“It does make more sense to do it [mandate energy reporting] on a regional basis,” said Coun. Mike Layton, while presenting the committee motion. “However, should they [the province] not follow through and make the commitment to do this now, then we should go ahead and be the leader in this and lead the pack.”

Michelle Ervin is the editor of Canadian Facility Management & Design.

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