City Building Energy Efficiency Programs: Hindering Real Energy Efficiency?..One Practitioner’s Real World Marketplace Observations

John M. Avina,
President Abraxas Energy Consulting,



Although created with best intentions, several city-run energy efficiency programs actually hinder energy efficiency. The two programs we are familiar with (San Francisco’s Energy Performance Ordinance and New York City’s Local Law 87) require energy audits on larger commercial buildings. The intent of the programs is to save energy, but the result is instead that energy audits are performed, reports filed, but energy efficiency does not necessarily result.Instead many building owners have told us that they view the ordinance as a tax, and are motivated to pay as little as possible for the audit while fulfilling the ordinance requirements. This has led to a “race to the bottom” on pricing and quality of the resulting energy audits. Audit prices have dropped by over 50% in both markets. Lower costs generally mean less time is devoted to the audit, and the work is done by less experienced and lower cost personnel. This paper presents a side-by-side comparison of the differences between a traditional energy audit conducted by experienced auditors and a compliance audit provided by a firm focused on taking advantage of the market created by these local ordinances—both audits on the same building. Results of these city ordinances are that comprehensive energy efficiency services become crowded out of the market, there is less need for accomplished energy professionals, and significantly less energy efficiency is achieved overall.