Cleantech Market Intelligence
Greenbuild: The Impact of Energy Legislation on Green Building
I’m back from Greenbuild 2010. It was a great showing from 30,000 professionals across various segments of the green building industry. While the one-on-one conversations are often the most important parts of the experience at a conference, I attended several speaker sessions that were highly valuable at Greenbuild.
One of these was a talk on the impact of energy legislation on green building and efficiency given by Dan Probst of Jones Lang Lasalle and Duane Desiderio of the Real Estate Roundtable. While their discussion on the legislative landscape for building efficiency in the United States hit on many of the same themes I’ve written about before (mandatory disclosure legislation, the role of incentives, and building codes), I wanted to pass along some fresh perspectives into the current state of many of these policy tools.
Dan Probst discussed the role of mandatory disclosure programs (which I previously addressed here), also known as commercial benchmarking laws. In short, these pieces of legislation require building owners to disclose the energy consumption of properties they are planning to sell or rent, thereby creating an incentive for owners to engage in efficiency upgrades to attract customers. In his presentation, Mr. Probst discussed new programs on the horizon in new cities and states such as Maryland, Oregon, San Francisco, and Portland. These programs follow legislation in place currently in California, New York City, Seattle, and Washington, DC. Needless to say, these pieces of legislation are quickly becoming more commonplace in many of the major commercial building markets nationwide.
The fate of PACE financing, another hot topic in the real estate industry (and on this blog), came up. The main issue with PACE financing, which ties repayments of loans for energy efficiency upgrades to a building’s property taxes and reduces or eliminates up-front capital outlays for efficiency upgrades, would subordinate a bank or other lending institution’s interest in the collateral, which the Federal Housing and Finance Agency, one of the largest lenders in the U.S., doesn’t like.
Mr. Desiderio indicated that there’s little clear progress in reviving PACE financing, at least for now. But he did make a good point: The federal government provides loan guarantees for certain types of capital-intensive and litigation-prone projects such as nuclear plants. If the government can back these, surely they can also back loans for efficiency, which are far less capital-intensive than nuclear plants and less likely to lead to court time. We’ll have to wait and see if this keen observation is ever borne out in reality.
While efficiency in private buildings in certain regions of the world, such as Europe, tends to be driven by legislation, the United States green building market prides itself on the fact that many efficiency gains have been made through market-based efforts such as corporate social responsibility. But it’s important, still, to remember that the policy landscape is getting tighter every quarter.