Reno’s Participation in the City Energy Project Helping to Expand Market for Energy Efficiency

Overview of downtown Reno looking at buildings and river during a purple and orange sunset


In 2015, the City of Reno joined the Compact of Mayors, now the Global Covenant of Mayors, which today has more than 9,000 participating cities. Participating cities have committed to battling the increasing threats of climatic events and accelerating ambitious, measurable climate and energy initiatives that lead to an inclusive, low-emission and climate resilient future and in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement. The Paris Climate Agreement is an international treaty ratified in October 2016, which aims to limit the rise in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius.

Through the Global Covenant of Mayors, the City of Reno committed to meet an interim carbon emissions reduction goal of 28 percent by 2025 from 2008 levels. Total CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent, the standard unit for measuring carbon pollution) emissions dropped from just over 3.2 million metric tons in 2008 to 2.75 million metric tons in 2014. This translates to a 13.62 percent drop in total emissions in six years. The emissions reductions were achieved primarily through increases in the State of Nevada’s renewable energy portfolio, improvements in fuel efficiency through the national Clean Car Standards, implementation of single-stream recycling, methane capture at the Lockwood landfill, and actions taken by residents and businesses that have resulted in lower emissions such as rooftop solar and LED lighting retrofits.

Because climate impacts pose economic risks for cities, in November 2017 Moody’s Investors Service announced it will assess a city’s commitment to reducing climate pollution and ability to adapt to a changing climate. Moody’s will embed climate risks as a key factor in its determination of a local government’s credit rating.

As the fastest warming city in the U.S. (Climate Central & Weather Channel Study, 2016), Reno already experiences the impacts of a changing climate. Over the past 50 years, Reno’s average annual temperature has climbed 1.39 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. The impacts — less snowpack, multi-year droughts, a dramatic increase in flooding, and more frequent wildfires — have shaken our perspective and challenged our assumptions about our future. These will directly affect the natural environment we so highly value, the health and safety of our families, and the economic growth that is creating greater prosperity for Reno businesses and families.

The City Energy Project

In 2016, the City of Reno was invited to join the City Energy Project as one of 20 pioneering cities working to boost our local economies and reduce climate pollution by cutting energy waste in large buildings. The project may be winding down, but for the City of Reno it’s only the beginning. The grant award under the City Energy Project was given to address the commercial building sector in Reno. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that up to 30 percent of energy used in buildings is wasted through inefficiencies. The City of Reno’s commitments to the City Energy Project were to implement a set of policies and programs designed to dramatically improve the energy performance of large commercial buildings, including:

  1. Benchmarking and transparency policy for buildings designed to drive investment in energy efficiency. Staff introduced a benchmarking and transparency policy that was crafted through a robust stakeholder process. The stakeholder group, referred to as the Technical Committee – Policy Development, was organized under the city’s Commercial Green Building Task Force. The Commercial Green Building Task Force has been meeting for the past 1.5 years offering guidance on how to expand green building and energy efficiency in Reno’s marketplace. More than 50 organizations were invited to participate on the Technical Committee and are kept informed through the process, including: industry associations, labor, local and state government, major institutions, real estate developers, property owners and facility managers, industry professionals, local businesses, non-profit organizations, and concerned residents.The policy further encourages investment in energy efficiency by requiring lower performing buildings take actions referred to as “Performance Pathways.” Unique in its approach compared to other markets, the City of Reno offered a variety of no- to low-cost pathways inclusive of workshops and certification programs for building facility staff.
  2. Training and certification of building operators to accelerate energy efficiency investments. In the fall of 2018, thirteen local building and energy professionals were certified in high-performance, green building operations and maintenance (GPRO: O+M). This was after an intense two-day course covering topics from the history of policy, to environmentally friendly cleaning products, to boiler and HVAC maintenance. The City of Reno hopes to offer this course, or a similar course, in 2019.
  3. 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) standards for new and renovated buildings. The state adopted the 2018 IECC without any amendments. Local governments have the responsibility to adopt the IECC at the local level. The City of Reno adopted the 2018 IECC, which go into effect on a voluntary basis on January 1, 2019, and will be mandatory on July 1, 2019.
  4. IECC Code Compliance Process. In January 2019, the City of Reno will begin to develop a process to support code compliance of the 2018 IECC to ensure that buildings are achieving the energy efficiency gains intended. One important aspect of code compliance is industry education. The city anticipates expanding educational offerings with key partners.
  5. Energy efficiency improvements in municipal buildings. Since the start of the project, the City of Reno has focused most of its efforts on lighting retrofits of its existing facilities. The city has completed three LED lighting retrofits at the Corp Yard, City Hall, and City Hall Parking Garage. These projects are reducing energy use and saving the City money. The City Hall Parking Garage lighting retrofit is saving over 20% on the energy bills for that facility, and the demand (kW) has been reduced approximately 15%-20%. The Facilities Division is identifying additional facilities that will benefit from low-cost investments in LED lighting retrofits.A grant from the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy allowed the City of Reno to enter into a contract to retro-commission 14 fire stations and one large building. The work will begin in January 2019.
  6. Citywide Better Buildings Challenge (ReEnergize Reno) to promote energy efficiency in private sector. This ambitious program aims to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings 20% by 2025. The program will help cut energy and water waste in large buildings, and reduce climate pollution. Since the program’s inception, 131 buildings and 8 million square feet have committed to ReEnergize Reno.In May 2018, the City of Reno held its inaugural Green Building Awards at The Grove. The City of Reno also held a regular, monthly workshop series covering topics from LEED to high performance building maintenance, and hosted a building tour of the JCPenney Logistics Center in North Reno, a LEED and ENERGY STAR certified facility.
  7. Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) finance program to provide access to private capital to finance energy efficiency projects. The City of Reno was invited to be a part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Local Government C-PACE Working Group. The group aims to streamline local government C-PACE programs and share best practices.
    The City of Reno will be contracting with a firm to design a Reno C-PACE program and we anticipate the C-PACE program launch in the first quarter of 2019.

Building on Momentum

As we look ahead to 2019, and reflect all that was accomplished since the inception of the City Energy Project, generously supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and The Kresge Foundationwe are excited to continue to build upon the momentum provided under this exciting opportunity. A BIG thank you to the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Institute for Market Transformation for your support.

We invite CEOs, university presidents, state and local government leaders, building owners, and multifamily housing developers to join ReEnergize Reno. Participants will receive public recognition, technical assistance, and access to a peer network to learn about cost-effective best practices for increasing building efficiency. The first 2019 ReEnergize Reno workshop is scheduled, so don’t miss the opportunity to learn about ReEnergize Reno and the benefits of energy and water benchmarking.

ReEnergize Reno Takes You Back to School with Efficiency Tips in our last ReEnergize Reno video and make sure you watch our “Thank You” video to Gold Medal Olympian, and Reno local, Jake Dalton.

For regular program updates, follow us on Twitter @RenoResilience


By: Suzanne Linfante, City Energy Advisor

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