Benchmarking empowers Minneapolis building owners to cut energy

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Energy use in large commercial buildings is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Minneapolis, which is why energy benchmarking is so important. Understanding how these structures consume electricity and finding new ways to make them more efficient, not only lowers operating costs and energy consumption, it’s also good for the environment. 

In 2016 the City of Minneapolis completed the phase-in of its energy benchmarking policy. The policy, which was adopted in 2013 requires building owners of private commercial buildings larger than 50,000 square feet, and owners of public buildings over 25,000 square feet, to report energy and water performance data. This benchmarking data has been valuable for many of the city’s building owners and operators, who in interviews have emphasized the reputational benefit of efficiency awareness. They also stated that the data is a useful tool for understanding year-over-year trends and for making peer median comparisons and investment decisions.

Here are a few key findings from the 2016 Energy Benchmarking Report:

Energy performance improves in benchmarked buildings. From 2014 to 2016 there was a nearly 2% reduction in total weather-normalized energy use intensity (EUI). Total energy use in benchmarked buildings has also decreased over the past three years, with electric bill savings reaching $21 million.
Energy upgrades save energy & cut costs. Substantial savings can be achieved by making simple changes, such as installing energy upgrades that lower operating costs and conserve energy. Findings from a recommissioning study at a large office building in downtown Minneapolis demonstrates that efficiency additions can lead to an 18% decrease in energy costs (that’s more than $500,000). Lighting control installs can also save energy — these upgrades were completed at the Courtyard Marriot Minneapolis hotel and resulted in a reduction of 8% or about $20,000 in annual savings.
Energy & water consumption is trending down in public and privately-owned buildings. In consistently benchmarked buildings, weather-normalized EUI was reduced by 3% over a period of five years. From 2015 to 2016, water consumption in public buildings decreased by 12%. Benchmarked private properties, overall, used 3% less energy in 2016 than in 2014. Energy use in arts and recreational facilities did increase by 6% over 3 years. However, parking garages consumed less energy (36%) due to LED conversions and changes to lighting controls, and water use in privately-owned buildings decreased by 5% from 2015 to 2016.
In addition to energy benchmarking data, the City of Minneapolis has also developed other initiatives, such as the:

  • Building Energy Challenge: The City is challenging building owners to capture opportunities to save energy by setting a goal to reduce harmful emissions by 15% by the year 2020.
  • Green Business Energy Efficiency & Solar Cost Shares: This program provides funding to businesses seeking to invest in solar and energy upgrades that lower greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Eligible businesses can receive a match of up to 30% or $50,000.
  • Customized Building Assistance: Building operators have the opportunity to receive one-on-one support to help them understand the data related to their property and evaluate next steps.

It’s amazing what a bit of data can do. When given whole building efficiency information, building managers are empowered to make better investment decisions that not only reduce energy and water use, but impact the bottom line. The City is using benchmarking data to develop new, and improve existing, efficiency initiatives. And as the report shows, the data tells the story: Minneapolis buildings are becoming more efficient, cutting business dollars spent on energy, and reducing harm to the planet.

To learn more about energy efficient solutions for your home, business, or community visit

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