Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City Passes Ordinance to Reduce Air Pollution from Salt Lake City Buildings by Improving Energy Use

In Tuesday’s Public Hearing, the Salt Lake City’s City Council passed an ordinance proposed by Mayor Jackie Biskupski and the Sustainability Department aimed at cutting energy costs, improving local air quality, and reducing the city’s carbon footprint.

With one dissenting vote, the Council approved the “Energy Benchmarking & Transparency Ordinance,” which is projected to save local buildings owners $15.8 million in annual energy costs and eliminate over 29 tons of criteria pollutants from Salt Lake City’s air each year. The market-based ordinance works by phasing-in new requirements for buildings over 25,000 square feet to “benchmark” or measure their energy usage annually.

“This ordinance has been in the works for over a year,” said Mayor Biskupski. “Over that time, it’s been a case study in collaborative policy making and I want to thank all the stakeholders involved. I’m proud that we ended up with a policy that will help clear the air, save building owners’ money, improve transparency, and reduce Salt Lake City’s carbon footprint.”

How the Energy Benchmarking & Transparency Ordinance Works

This ordinance requires all commercial buildings above 25,000 square feet to benchmark and report their energy consumption to Salt Lake City on an annual basis using the free online ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software (with automation services made possible through local utilities Rocky Mountain Power and Dominion Energy).

The Portfolio Manager tool gives buildings an energy score from 1 to 100, with anything 75 or over considered to be high-performing. This score gives buildings a standard metric through which to gauge their performance over time as well as against buildings of similar use and type. It also allows building owners and managers to identify if their buildings are good candidates for voluntary efficiency improvements to reduce energy waste—and therefore air pollution.

To minimize the burden on buildings, the ordinance will roll out over a staggered timeline:

  • Salt Lake City municipal buildings benchmark and report their ENERGY STAR score in 2018. (The City has already begun benchmarking. Reports can be viewed at
  • Commercial buildings 50,000 square feet and larger benchmark and report in May 2019
  • Commercial buildings 25,000 square feet and larger benchmark and report in May 2020.

Beginning in 2020, Salt Lake City will publish a list of all commercial buildings that received an above-average ENERGY STAR score of 50 or above. Building owners will also have the option of displaying their actual scores.

Finally, ENERGY STAR-certifiable buildings– those with a score of 75 and above—will automatically be a contender at the annual Skyline Challenge Awards, an event that honors the top energy efficiency leaders in Utah.

In addition to the energy efficiency resources available from our local utilities, the ordinance will also create a resource center, housed in the Salt Lake City Sustainability Department, to help building managers understand the range of tools and incentives available to voluntarily upgrade equipment to reduce costs and prevent pollution.

“This ordinance is a win-win. It requires certain buildings to undertake mandatory measurement of their energy use and report it to the City,” said Vicki Bennett, Director of the Sustainability Department.  “That is all. It’s then up to building owners and managers to decide if they want to make voluntary energy efficiency improvements that will save them money. We think they will after seeing the dollars and cents they’ll save. Increasing the number of buildings saving energy will then go a long way to clearing our air and reducing Salt Lake City’s carbon footprint.”

For further details on how the ordinance works, please visit:

Why Building Efficiency Matters

In Salt Lake City, promoting energy efficient buildings not only saves money and energy—it’s also important for improving air quality.

According to the Department of Environmental Quality, area sources which include homes, restaurants, small businesses and commercial buildings, currently contribute 39 percent of the air pollution in the Salt Lake valley on a given winter day, with commercial buildings supplying 10 percent of that.

In the coming years, area sources will outpace the transportation sector as the largest contributor to the Wasatch Front’s wintertime air pollution. That makes everything we can do to cut emissions particularly impactful.

Analysis from Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability and the non-profit City Energy Project show the Energy Benchmarking & Transparency Ordinance will cut an estimated 29 tons of nitrogen oxides—a key contributor to wintertime air pollution–from the air each year.  More gains can be realized if building owners voluntarily tune-up their buildings or install new equipment.

The ordinance also helps Salt Lake City achieve its Climate Positive goals of transitioning the community to 100% clean electricity by 2032, followed by an overall greenhouse gas reduction of 80% by 2040. Energy efficiency is a key component of meeting those goals.

“The City’s carbon reduction goals are aggressive, but they are completely attainable with strategies like this to reduce emissions,” said Council Member Erin Mendenhall, who made the motion to approve the ordinance.  “Cities use these types of programs and tools effectively across the country to improve air quality, and those cities are successful at attracting talent and economic development, because this is important to people.”

“Non-residential buildings represent 51 percent of Salt Lake City’s community-wide carbon footprint,” said Kevin Emerson, Director of Energy Efficiency Programs for Utah Clean Energy a local non-profit. “By adopting this this innovative policy, Utah’s capital city is leading the way to help improve air quality and lower climate emissions by using market forces to encourage greater levels of energy savings in large buildings. Utah Clean Energy has long worked to reduce energy waste from our homes and buildings and this ordinance is a giant leap forward in reducing unnecessary pollution from buildings in a way that also benefits businesses’ bottom line.”

For more information, please visit

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