How We’re Learning to Measure Progress on Sustainability

Read the full story in Governing.

Perhaps nothing speaks more to the challenge of sustainably managing infrastructure systems than attempting to measure their performance. It’s a daunting task, at best, to merely inventory a city’s systems — water, energy, transportation and water, for example — much less to describe and catalogue their many functions and interdependencies. Adding verification that the systems are sustainably managed would seem to be virtually impossible.

Some cities, however, are paving new ground toward making the impossible possible. While many communities have set sustainability goals, plans and programs, a lesser number are actively communicating their progress. A few cities have significantly raised the bar by defining performance statistics, setting timelines and publishing their results through online performance dashboards. These cities include Kansas City, Salt Lake City and, most recently, Los Angeles, whose Sustainable City pLAn dashboard debuted last month.

DOE Resources Help Measure Building Energy Benchmarking Policy & Program Effectiveness

The Energy Department has released two resources to help stakeholders analyze the energy, non-energy, and market transformation impacts of building energy benchmarking policies and programs. The first is a handbook that provides methodologies for jurisdictions to use to analyze the impact of their benchmarking policies and programs. The second resource demonstrates the methodologies using real data from New York City’s benchmarking ordinance, Local Law 84 (LL84). Building energy benchmarking is the process of measuring how efficiently a building uses energy relative to the other similar buildings over time.

The DOE Benchmarking & Transparency Policy and Program Impact Evaluation Handbook provides cost-effective, standardized analytic methods for determining gross and net energy reduction, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions mitigation, job creation and economic growth impacts. The Handbook also provides an extensive, holistic framework for evaluating the market transformation progress of benchmarking policies. It is a “how-to” guide with clear procedures and data requirements, permitting any jurisdiction or interested party—such as consultants, researchers, or government officials—to assess benchmarking polices in a consistent manner.

DOE also sponsored the New York City Benchmarking and Transparency Policy Impact Evaluation Report, which uses the methodologies detailed in the Handbook to evaluate results to date from New York City’s benchmarking policy, LL84. The report finds that between 2010 and 2013—the first four years of LL84—buildings covered by the ordinance reduced their energy use by 5.7% and lowered their GHG emissions by 8.3%, and that the benchmarking efforts directly created 39 jobs as well another roughly 7,000 jobs created through the resulting energy-efficiency activities. These figures are particularly encouraging given that during the same period the gross domestic product in New York City grew by 4.2% and the cost of electricity fell by 8.4%; despite these trends, covered buildings still reduced their energy use. Furthermore, the report notes that awareness of building energy performance is growing in New York City, and that building energy use information is playing an increasingly important role in real estate decisions.

These encouraging results—which were derived from the methodologies outlined in the Handbook suggests that market change from  benchmarking policies and programs is underway and expected to grow. As more jurisdictions around the country recognize the value of benchmarking and use it to better understand and optimize their buildings’ energy use, they can leverage the Handbook to analyze the impact of their policies and programs.

EPA Delves Deeper into Corporate Sustainability Data

Read the full post on the ACS Nexus Blog.

For more than two decades, EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program has required industrial facilities to disclose both their environmental releases and the measures they’ve taken to keep toxic chemicals out of our air, water, and land.  It was only recently, however, that the TRI Program began promoting this treasure trove of pollution prevention (P2) data as a resource for identifying demonstrably-effective green practices.

More than 10,000 source reduction activities are reported to TRI each year, but can we tell which ones actually reduce releases? A rigorous statistical analysis of all TRI data shows that the average effect is highest for the reporting categories that include raw material (e.g., feedstock chemical) substitution and switches to aqueous cleaners from solvents. And a separate analysis of the pharmaceutical sector indicates that green chemistry practices contributed to dramatic reductions in the early-to-mid 2000s.

But more meaningful insights lie ahead. Beginning with reports due July 1 of this year, facilities will have the opportunity to report the estimated annual reduction associated with each newly implemented P2 activity. This information will shed new light on which types of practices (including six new green chemistry categories added in 2012) are having the biggest impact on companies’ environmental footprints. As always, facilities that implemented green chemistry will also be encouraged to highlight their successes by submitting a more detailed narrative in the optional P2 section of the form (see video).

Scope 2: Changing the Way Companies Think About Electricity Emissions

Read the full story from the World Resources Institute.

Approximately 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from energy generation, and about half of that energy is consumed by industrial or commercial users. If a fifth of the world’s emissions come from the energy that keeps the world’s businesses running, how does business report those emissions?

ACEEE – SEE Action Webinar: Long-Run Savings and Cost-Effectiveness of Home Energy Reports Programs

Wed, Dec 3, 2014 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM CST
Register at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/240292888

Home energy report programs have become a cornerstone of many utilities’ energy efficiency portfolios. Millions of utility customers receive these reports, and HER programs typically result in electricity savings of between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent. Now that utility home energy report programs have begun to mature, we can begin to assess savings over the longer term. Cadmus will report on long-run savings from home energy report programs, examines the persistence of savings after utilities stop sending reports, and determines how persistence of savings affects HER measure-life and cost-effectiveness calculations.

Measuring Up: How to Track and Evaluate Local Sustainability Projects

Tue, Nov 18, 2014 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM CST
Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4055459940572487426

Join this EPA Local Climate and Energy webinar to learn how to measure and evaluate the results of local climate, energy, and sustainability projects.

Measuring, evaluating, and reporting on progress is an important part of local sustainability projects and programs. Tracking and analyzing results can help local entities assess program performance and success, identify specific areas for improvement or expansion, and make informed decisions about future actions. Public reporting can help generate interest in a project, promote accountability, demonstrate success, and attract political and financial support.

You’ll learn about two new federal resources to help you measure, track, and report progress, based directly on the experiences of local governments across the country, and hear from one case study taking place in northwest Washington working to evaluate economic impacts of the program:

• Emma Zinsmeister, EPA Local Climate and Energy Program: Learn about a new methodology outlining the key steps for developing, tracking, analyzing, and reporting on performance indicators for climate and clean energy programs.

• Ted Cochin, EPA Office of Sustainable Communities: This presentation will focus on the Sustainable Community Indicator Catalog, providing information on specific indicators that local entities can use to measure progress toward their sustainability objectives.

• Alex Ramel, Energy and Policy Director, Sustainable Connections: Learn about an on-the-ground effort to measure and evaluate the economic impacts of a community energy efficiency program implemented in Bellingham and other areas of northwest Washington.

Accounting for the Expanding Carbon Shadow From Coal-Burning Plants

Read the full post at Dot Earth.

Steven Davis of the University of California, Irvine, and Robert Socolow of Princeton (best known for his work dividing the climate challenge into carbon “wedges”) have written “Commitment accounting of CO2 emissions,” a valuable new paper in Environmental Research Letters showing the value of shifting from tracking annual emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants to weighing the full amount of carbon dioxide that such plants, burning coal or gas, could emit during their time in service.