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Sustainable Development Update
July 14, 2017

Sustainable Development Focus

Chicago grabs lead in green office buildings, study shows

Bloomberg - Jul 6 Chicago now has the highest percentage of certified LEED or Energy Star office buildings, 66 percent, among the 30 largest real estate markets in the U.S., according to a study published last Thursday by CBRE Group Inc. and Maastricht University. Chicago increased its percentage of green office space square footage by 6.5 percent in the last year, taking the top spot away from San Francisco, which slipped to second place in the annual study. In San Francisco, green buildings represent almost 62 percent of commercial office space. Atlanta, Houston, and Minneapolis were also among the top five cities for green buildings, according to the study, which tracked buildings that have been LEED or Energy Star certified in the past five years. Across the top 30 U.S. real estate markets, the average proportion of green certified square footage is 38 percent, according to the researchers.

Can sustainable stadiums be a better deal for cities and environment?

Curbed - Jul 6 Many studies and reports have argued that publicly subsidizing new and expanded stadiums often isn’t a good deal for the public. In Washington, D.C., a new project suggests there may be other, more sustainable ways to help finance stadiums that offer additional benefits beyond a new place to play. The District’s Major League Soccer team, D.C. United, broke ground on a new 20,000-seat stadium, Audi Field, earlier this year in the Buzzard Point neighborhood, buoyed in part by $25 million in green funding from the Department of Energy and Environment’s Property Assessed Clean Energy program. The $120 million project, which also relies on a $95 million loan from Goldman Sachs, will include a 884-kilowatt solar array, a stormwater retention system, and a variety of smaller energy and water efficient technologies. The solar arrays will provide roughly one million kilowatt hours of solar power each year, enough to cover roughly a third of the stadium’s projected energy bill. In addition, the other green retrofits will cut energy use by a quarter and decrease carbon emissions by 820 metric tons, the same as taking 173 cars off the road.

Rooftop solar dims under pressure from utility lobbyists

New York Times - Jul 8 Over the past six years, rooftop solar panel installations have seen explosive growth — as much as 900 percent by one estimate. That growth has come to a shuddering stop this year, with a projected decline in new installations of 2 percent, according to projections from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A number of factors are driving the reversal, from saturation in markets like California to financial woes at several top solar panel makers. But the decline has also coincided with a concerted and well-funded lobbying campaign by traditional utilities, which have been working in state capitals across the country to reverse incentives for homeowners to install solar panels. Utilities argue that rules allowing private solar customers to sell excess power back to the grid at the retail price — a practice known as net metering — can be unfair to homeowners who do not want or cannot afford their own solar installations. Prodded in part by the utilities’ campaign, nearly every state in the country is engaged in a review of its solar energy policies. Since 2013, Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, Maine, and Indiana have decided to phase out net metering, crippling programs that spurred explosive growth in the rooftop solar market. Nevada recently reversed its decision.

Investors, tenants demanding that managers go green

Pensions & Investments - Jul 10 Commercial real estate contributes 30 percent of global annual greenhouse gas emissions, a recent report noted, despite early and continuing efforts by real estate managers to make their properties more environmentally friendly. Investors are increasing pressure on their real estate investment managers to make investments more sustainable. For instance, in 2017, the $324.7 billion California Public Employees' Retirement System's real asset managers, including real estate, were required to begin reporting to GRESB, formerly the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark, an organization committed to assessing real asset performance globally by environmental, social, and governance factors. CalPERS' real asset portfolio has a net asset value of $31.8 billion and accounts for 10.8 percent of CalPERS' total assets. The GRESB results are expected to be reported as part of CalPERS' real asset review in November, said spokeswoman Megan White, in an email. CalPERS adopted carbon footprint reduction goals as part of a five-year strategic plan for ESG approved in 2016. That includes reducing its carbon footprint by 50 percent by 2021. CalPERS is not alone. Sixty pension plans worldwide are GRESB members.

California bill aims to help cities and towns permit energy storage quickly

Microgrid Knowledge - Jul 7 With hundreds of small-scale energy storage applications expected in response to California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program, a new bill aims to help confused cities, towns, and counties permit energy storage systems efficiently. Sponsored by the California Energy Storage Alliance (CESA), AB 546 would create a handbook of best practices for permitting energy storage systems and establish limits on what communities can charge for permits, said Alex Morris, director of policy and regulatory affairs for CESA. California regulators recently doubled incentives for the Self-Generation Incentive Program, giving the lion’s share to energy storage funding. They ruled that the state’s investor-owned utilities must collect $83 million annually between 2017 and 2019 for the SGIP program. “We’re expecting hundreds of permit requests,” said Morris. “They will start coming through the SGIP program. The program has been on hold for a long period of time. Now it’s opening in rolling steps. It has a residential carve out. We’re expecting to see a number of small systems.” While all these applications are good news for the storage industry, local governments aren’t familiar with energy storage and could hold up the permitting, he said.

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