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Regulatory Roundup: The Latest Building Energy Policy Updates Affecting Real Estate

Federal Updates 

The SEC: No Movement on Proposed Climate Rule

Bogged down in public comments – and proceeding with caution following the Supreme Court’s EPA vs. West Virginia ruling – the SEC missed its self-imposed October deadline to release final climate rules. “The volume of comments is the primary factor in the amount of time it will take to finalize the rule,” says a source via Bloomberg

The SEC continues to wrestle with several topics flagged by companies alleging that the compliance burden will be too costly, including the mandatory disclosure of Scope 3 emissions and tying climate risk to financial risk. 

For our initial analysis and a breakdown of the anticipated reporting deadlines, check out our earlier blog post.

State/Municipal Updates 

New York, NY: New Details and Recommendations for Local Law 97 

An October 2022 update on New York’s infamous Local Law 97 (LL97) brought more details on implementation and compliance. Notably, the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) established the building emissions limits and emissions factors for different property types and provided more information on reporting and compliance. 

On November 14, city Comptroller Brad Landor released a follow-up report based on the analysis of 23,000 privately-owned buildings covered by LL97. Key recommendations from the report include: 

  • Limiting the use of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to just 30% of a building’s emissions overages, closing a possible compliance loophole. 
  • Aligning LL97 rules and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that retrofits are more economically attractive than the financial penalties for noncompliance, per the report’s findings that “a large portion of buildings will need to complete large-scale retrofits to comply with the law by 2030.”

Washington, D.C.: New Construction Must be Net Zero Beginning in 2026 

The D.C. City Council voted unanimously to ban the use of fossil fuels, including natural gas, in new construction by 2026. As part of the Clean Energy DC Building Code Amendment Act of 2022, Mayor Bowser must now adopt regulations mandating that all new developments and major renovations are completed under a net-zero emissions standard. 

According to an October 2022 study by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the D.C. region met its 2020 target to reduce GHG emissions by 20%, putting it on track to reach the next milestones in 2030 and 2050. 

Boston, MA: Another Extension Coming for 2022 BERDO Disclosures 

After passing the Building Emissions Reporting & Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) in 2021, Boston may now be granting building owners another extension on an upcoming December 15 emissions reporting deadline. Though roughly 71% of landlords with buildings greater than 20,000 square feet have started compiling their data, few have submitted it for third-party verification. Per analysis by the Boston Business Journal, Boston’s energy and emissions data reported to date has been plagued with accuracy issues, creating added confusion for building owners. 

The City of Boston will be rolling out additional rules around implementation as part of its BERDO 2.0 Phase 2 rulemaking

Boston ownership groups seeking guidance can refer to the BERDO Reporting How-To Guide and a recorded training video on reporting through ENERGY STAR™ Portfolio Manager. 

California: New Load Management Standards Introduced to Improve Grid Reliability and Drive Renewable Demand 

In October 2022, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved new Load Management Standards to incentivize shifting demand to off-peak times when renewable generation is highest. The new standards require utility providers to report real-time electricity rates that reflect live grid costs and renewable power availability, pushing consumers to move usage to traditionally off-peak hours. To facilitate this, utility companies must publish hourly rates and emissions information to a new central database that can be accessed by smart technologies (like advanced meters and devices) to enable flexible load shifting. 

The standards will take effect in April 2023 and will impact PG&E, Southern California Edison, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Los Angeles Water and Power, in addition to community choice aggregators. According to the CEC’s analysis, the new requirements could reduce peak consumption by 120 GWh and generate $243 million in net benefits over the next 15 years. 

Seattle, WA: Draft GHG Intensity Targets for Seattle’s Building Performance Standard Now Available 

At the end of October, the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment hosted a Seattle BPS Targets webinar where it released draft emissions targets for covered buildings and the relevant analysis. The presentation slides are available here and the full recording can be viewed here.