SOUTH PORTLAND — Owners of larger buildings in the Mill Creek shopping district must start tracking their energy and water use this month after the City Council approved a benchmarking ordinance at its last regular meeting.

Utility benchmarking – a technical term for tallying and comparing similar things – is a process promoted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that allows participants to compare energy and water consumption and promotes efforts to increase efficiency.

The ordinance also aims to help city officials and others make better decisions related to energy use, climate protection and real estate transactions, said Julie Rosenbach, the city’s sustainability coordinator.

“Our next steps will be to develop an implementation plan, which will include outreach and education, benchmarking assistance and a reporting framework,” Rosenbach said. “We are also working with utilities to make whole-building energy data more easily available.”

Approved Jan. 4, the ordinance applies to commercial buildings in the Mill Creek area with at least 5,000 square feet of gross floor area, which includes attics and basements. There are 30 such buildings now.

The ordinance also applies to residential properties in the Mill Creek area with 10 units or more, of which there are currently none. And it applies to about 23 municipal and school buildings citywide that have at least 5,000 square feet of gross floor area.

Under the ordinance, owners of larger buildings must provide data to the city about energy and water use on an annual basis. The first time they will be required to submit utility data will be May 1, 2018, for the 2017 calendar year.

“The outreach and assistance that Julie will provide as part of this program has the potential to save real money for the participating property owners in terms of their energy and water use costs,” said Tex Haeuser, city planning director.

The city will publish its first round of benchmarking results on Sept. 1, 2019, Rosenbach said. However, the first report won’t include detailed energy and water use data. It will only say whether or not building owners submitted data, she said.

“The purpose of this one-year grace period for reporting (detailed data to the public) is to work out any kinks there may be and give building owners a chance to see their scores and make any adjustments, if desired, before their data is reported publicly,” Rosenbach said.

By May 1, 2023, building owners will be required to complete a five-year comprehensive energy audit.

For complete information about the benchmarking ordinance, including financial incentives with development fees and professional benchmarking assistance, visit the city’s website at www.southportland.org and click on “Benchmarking” on the Comprehensive Plan Committee page.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at:

[email protected]