CITY HALL — A green, good-government initiative sponsored by the mayor faces rare resistance in the City Council Wednesday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed the Energy Benchmarking Ordinance in June, and it sailed through the Zoning Committee in July. Basically, it would create a city website where buildings larger than 50,000 square feet would have to post their data on energy use.
The goal is to encourage building owners to adopt energy-efficiency measures on their own, both by "shaming" them publicly with how inefficient a building might be, and by showing how readily other buildings make such improvements. It could be expanded to all city buildings in an effort to encourage energy efficiency.
"I don't know if I'd use the word 'shaming,'" said Ald. Timothy Cullerton (38th), an electrician by trade before entering politics. "I think it's an incentive."
"There's a lot of value in information," said mayoral spokesman Tom Alexander.
Yet Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) raised objections in committee, and although he lost that vote, he managed to get the measure deferred and published in the City Council. That means it will come up for a straight up-or-down vote, supposedly with no debate, at Wednesday's regularly scheduled City Council session.
Reilly said it "could impose a costly mandate" on condominium owners, and he rallied opposition to it in his newsletter last month. Others have argued the cost of entering the energy data in the city website would be minimal, and the only real costs would be in building owners making subsequent improvements. Alexander estimated the effect of the actual ordinance would cost a large building $1,000 every other year.
"It will pass, we believe," Alexander said.
"I think it's going to be very user-friendly, and I think the goal is very admirable," Cullerton said. "I think it's way past due.
"We see the effects of climate change now. We're paying for it," he added. "We have to do something with our energy management and our use of fossil fuels and nuclear fuels and reduce our consumption."
Cullerton said in most cases the costs would be minimal, both in collecting the data and in making energy-efficient upgrades.
"People in condominium buildings, they can reduce their load simply by putting in compact fluorescents in the public hallways," he said. "They don't even do that."