April 21, 2023 | Cliff Majersik

On April 6, 2023 Cliff Majersik was invited to testify on behalf of IMT at a DC Council hearing about a proposed delay to the Building Energy Performance Standards timeline. This document is his unedited written submission explaining why IMT opposes this delay. Cliff also spoke to Jacob Fenston at WAMU, the local NPR affiliate, and was quoted in the DCist and the Washington Informer.

Written Testimony

The Committee on Transportation and the Environment, Budget Oversight Hearing on the Department of Energy and Environment and the Green Finance Authority

Cliff Majersik
Senior Advisor
The Institute for Market Transformation
April 6, 2023

Thank you, Chairperson Allen and members of the Committee, for the opportunity to provide written testimony on the industry feedback we have received regarding the Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS).

I testify as proud DC resident in support of DC’s investment in better buildings for our people and DC’s climate leadership, and I oppose the BEPS delay proposed in the Budget Support Act.

The Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington. IMT partners with government, business, and philanthropy to improve the efficiency and performance of the places where people live, work, and play. IMT is a grantee of DOEE and a contractor to the DCSEU.

I helped write DC’s Green Building Act of 2006, Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2008, and Clean Energy DC Act of 2018. I was a lead author of the existing building chapter of Mayor Bowser’s CEDC Plan, which first recommended the BEPS.

Buildings critical role in our lives and achieving DC commitments

Buildings account for over 70% of DC’s greenhouse gas emissions. So, it is critically important that DC accelerate investments in building performance. BEPS is a central pillar of the District’s strategy for DC to achieve its climate commitments. Delaying BEPS would deal a body blow to DC achieving those commitments.

Americans spend more than 90% of our lives in buildings. After our people, buildings are the District’s second most valuable asset. It is critically important to the health, well being, and livelihoods of District residents that buildings perform well. Together, DC residents, businesses and the DC government spend $1.8 billion on fossil fuels every year. This is money that leaves our economy. By investing in improved building performance, we cut residents’ and businesses’ energy bills, keep more of the $1.8 billion in DC, and create jobs for DC residents at every skill level from roofers and electricians to architects and engineers.

IMT has catalogued several academic studies which have all found that higher performing commercial buildings not only save money on their energy bills, but have higher occupancies and sales prices. In short, building improvements typically yield excellent financial returns.

DC is supporting owners as they improve their buildings

Several DC government agencies are supporting improved building performance. In particular, I’m proud that the District has put in place a number of investments to support owners in improving their buildings, benefiting their occupants, and complying with BEPS. These include workforce development, rebates, and other financial support from DCSEU, low-cost financing from the DC Green Bank, and the Building Innovation Hub (a program of IMT) to share best practices, convene peer learning events, and guide building owners and service providers to improve our buildings. And, working together with DOEE, all of these entities provide higher levels of assistance and support to our frontline communities through the Affordable Housing Retrofit Accelerator.

These groups play a critical role in the success of BEPS needed for the District to achieve its climate commitments and secure significant new competitive federal climate funding. With their support, over the coming years DC building owners will need to continue to integrate building improvements into their capital investment plans, new workers will need to gain the skills needed to improve buildings, and service providers will need to ramp up their capacity. The most important two things DC can do to ensure this happens is to maintain its investments in building improvements and to provide long-term certainty regarding BEPS to the market. Unfortunately, the proposed BEPS delay undermines this needed certainty.

BEPS is already working well

The owners of approximately 75% – 80% of the buildings that are required to choose a BEPS Compliance Pathway have already done so. This represents a major investment of time and money spent on preparing for the existing BEPS requirements. Much of this investment will be wasted if the District delays BEPS.
Based on their reporting to DOEE, buildings subject to BEPS have greatly accelerated the pace of their energy savings over 59% of buildings can be considered on track to meeting their 2026 performance requirements.

The current BEPS law and regulations already allow building owners compliance extensions and adjustments for a variety of circumstances including financial hardship, high vacancy rates, and planned renovations. DOEE has been accommodating of building owners. In particular, DOEE will grant BEPS extensions and adjustments to developers repositioning their buildings, including converting office buildings to apartments. BEPS is already supportive of the Mayor’s Comeback Plan. There is no need for delay. In fact, a delay would undermine DC’s comeback by creating uncertainty, projecting that the District is not a stable and reliable partner, and wasting much of the significant time, effort and investment that building owners have already made in response to BEPS.

The bottom line is that while there is room for improvement, DC BEPS is saving energy and GHG, DOEE is doing a good job administering DC BEPS, compliance is strong and growing, and BEPS has positive momentum. It would be unfair to the many building owners who are complying with BEPS to change the BEPS schedule and requirements and make many owners go back to the drawing table wasting much of their work to date.

Forums for an inclusive deliberative process to improve BEPS: DC’s BEPS Task Force and DC’s Green Building Advisory Council

I serve on DC’s BEPS Task Force and on DC’s Green Building Advisory Council (GBAC). I’ve discussed the proposed BEPS delays with several of the private sector members of the Mayor’s GBAC. All oppose the proposed delays and believe that the proposed delays would be counter productive for both the District’s buildings industry and the District’s ability to achieve its climate commitments. Fellow GBAC members Linda Toth of Arup and Nicole Whelan of Green Compass ask that I relay their opposition to the delays.

The BEPS Task Force itself and its interactions with DOEE have been exceptionally collaborative, collegial and productive. The BEPS Task Force would be an ideal venue for addressing building owners concerns and providing additional BEPS flexibility to ensure that BEPS contributes as much as possible to the lives of DC residents and the vibrancy of our economy.

DC is a BEPS trailblazer. Three states including Maryland and six localities have followed DC’s lead in adopting their own BPS. And, 40 states and localities have
joined President Biden’s National Building Performance Standards Coalition and vowed to adopt equitable building performance standards by 2024.

DOEE, building owners, and the BEPS Task Force have identified opportunities to improve BEPS. Any changes to BEPS should be developed in an equitable and deliberative process with all stakeholders at the table and should be enacted through regular order not the backdoor of the BSA.

Thank you and I’d be happy to take questions.

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