Portland set to postpone energy benchmark reporting

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PORTLAND — Reporting on energy and water use and greenhouse gas emissions required by a 2016 benchmarking ordinance will likely be pushed back to May 1, 2019.

An amendment to the ordinance was recommended for passage Oct. 24 by City Councilors Spencer Thibodeau and Belinda Ray at a meeting of the council’s Sustainability & Transportation Committee.

The amendment requires approval by the full City Council. Thibodeau, the committee chairman, said he may seek to waive the first reading at the Monday, Nov. 5, meeting to pass the amendment next week.

The reporting date would be for municipal data; a new reporting date for the private sector has not been set.

When passed by councilors on Nov. 7, 2016, the ordinance had a Dec. 1, 2018, reporting date for annual data on energy use in commercial buildings of at least 20,000 square feet, or a residential building with at least 50 units.

City Sustainability Coordinator Troy Moon said there are about 800 buildings of this size affected by the ordinance, with about 50 owned by the city.

The goal is to eventually have the data available for view using the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Energy Star Portfolio Manager platform. The ordinance also requires the city to post the data on emissions, energy and water usage on its website annually.

The catch in reporting data from privately and city-owned buildings has come in aggregating the total data from separate accounts in the buildings. 

To discuss how to get data from Central Maine Power, Thibodeau invited CMP President Douglas Hertling to appear at the Oct. 25 meeting for a workshop on how to get energy data while also protecting the privacy of individual renters and lessees of commercial space.

Hertling was unable to attend, but CMP executives Erik Robie, Jayme Holland, Mark Morrisette and Linda Ball did present on behalf of the utility on how it might deliver energy-use data.

“The first thing we have to overcome is the level of confidentiality,” Ball said.

While some customer information cannot be released without permission from the Public Utilities Commission, Ball said CMP should be able to create a way for the city to aggregate data for its own buildings, despite some having sub-accounts.

Because city staff need only to provide CMP with the specific account numbers, aggregating data can move ahead soon. That led Moon to say achieving a May 1 deadline for municipal compliance is “extremely doable.”

On the private side, a group of city property owners called the Portland 2030 District have also been working with Efficiency Maine to compile the data, but have also been hampered in collecting it.

Portland 2030 District board member Dave Low suggested once clearance is granted to provide basic information usage without violating any confidentiality issues, CMP could actually load the data into the EPA site on its own.

Some data obtained was for 15-minute intervals, where the ordinance seeks data on annual usage.

While CMP, Efficiency Maine and the Portland 2030 District will continue to work together to aggregate data in private buildings, the private owners would be required to report a year after the city has certified service providers have made the data available.

Former Councilor Jon Hinck, who sponsored the ordinance, said he was disappointed by the lack of progress on reporting, especially because of data storage that is already part of the CMP Smart Meter program.

“I have higher aspirations for CMP than what they appear to be doing now,” Hinck said. “What should be happening is, CMP should be using their technical expertise to go straight to the Portfolio Manager.”

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.