Last week Denver took a big step toward achieving major city-wide energy savings by launching the Denver City Energy Project, a voluntary program that aims to benchmark building energy performance across the city. Specifically, the program targets commercial and multifamily buildings of more than 10,000 square feet. By targeting these buildings, which account for the most energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, the City estimates that it can unlock about $1.3 billion in net energy savings and reduce emissions by 18 percent.
"Addressing climate change is one of the city's goals, and buildings account for 64 percent of the city's greenhouse gases," said Doug Linkhart, executive director of the Denver Department of Environmental Health.
City officials including Deputy Mayor and Chief Financial Officer Cary Kennedy and Denver Environmental Health Executive Director Doug Linkhart, as well as representatives of project partners BOMA Denver Metro Chapter, the Energy Efficiency Business Coalition, IFMA Denver Chapter, and Xcel Energy officially kicked off Denver's program at a launch event in the historic Brown Palace Hotel, one of 57 buildings that have already joined the program.
Deputy Mayor Cary Kennedy speaks at the Denver City Energy Project launch event. Photo courtesy of City of Denver
The Brown Palace Hotel has saved 26 percent on its electricity costs and 24 percent on its natural gas costs per occupied room through retrofits and adjustments over the past two years. Also recognized at the kickoff was 1670 Broadway, a local building that is projected to save more than $128,000 per year in energy costs thanks to a new energy-management system that monitors, controls, and optimizes building performance.
Over 200 members of the community attended the launch event. Photo courtesy of the City of Denver
Research has shown that building owners who benchmark their buildings are more likely to make energy efficiency improvements and, on average, benchmarked buildings reduce energy use by 7 percent over three years. Another positive outcome stemming from the program is the creation of jobs; energy efficiency projects generates new jobs—the Denver City Energy Project is expected to create 4,000 jobs—and those building owners who opt to share their ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager score or energy use intensity (EUI) with the city can help drive citywide investment in the most effective programs and solutions.
"We must reduce the amount of energy we use in our buildings if we're going to achieve our 2020 sustainability goals and keep up Denver's reputation as a sustainable city and livable community," said Mayor Michael Hancock. The City and County are leading the way by committing to reduce the energy use of city-operated buildings, which represent more than 6 million square feet of space, by 20 percent by 2020. And the private sector, following the lead of the 57 buildings signed up for the Denver City Energy Project already, is well underway to unlocking the energy and cost savings in its building stock as well.
This blog post was co-written by Irene Burga, Legal Fellow with the City Energy Project.
 Savings estimates are scaled to the City and County of Denver based on models published in "United States Building Efficiency Retrofits: Market Sizing and Financial Models," from the Rockefeller Foundation and Deutsche Bank Group, March 2012.