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San Francisco Now Requires 100% Renewable Energy for Commercial Buildings

September 25, 2019 Articles

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance this week requiring owners of all nonresidential buildings in San Francisco of at least 50,000 square feet to provide all on-site electricity demands from 100% renewable sources. Buildings will be phased into the new requirements based on size, as discussed below.

Requirements

Under the changes to the San Francisco Environment Code, owners of nonresidential buildings subject to the law must ensure that all on-site electricity demands are met through a combination of on-site generation of greenhouse gas-free electricity and greenhouse gas-free electricity purchased from a utility company.

Timing

The date on which the new requirements apply to each nonresidential building in the City depends on the size of that building. Buildings with 500,000 square feet of gross floor area or more must meet the new renewable energy requirement by December 31, 2022. Buildings with between 250,000 and 499,999 square feet of gross floor area must meet the new requirement by December 31, 2024. Finally, buildings with between 50,000 and 249,999 square feet of gross floor area must meet the new requirement by December 31, 2030.

Exceptions

The law makes clear that buildings on a waitlist with a utility company to receive 100% of their on-site electricity demands from renewable sources by the applicable date set forth above shall be in compliance with the law, even if they are not using renewable energy as of the deadline.

In addition, buildings that would otherwise be subject to the new requirements will not be considered in violation of the law so long as they are under a long-term energy contract entered into prior to December 31, 2019.

The Department of Environment may also grant exceptions to the new law under the following circumstances:

  1. If there is a lack of greenhouse gas-free or renewable energy market resources available to meet demand, and/or
  2. If the cost of all available 100% greenhouse gas-free or renewable electricity options is more than 5% of each provider’s default program offering, and/or
  3. If the new requirement conflicts with, or is similar or less comprehensive than, a renewable energy requirement adopted by the state or federal government.

Tenants

While the new requirements apply to building owners by default, tenants of commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet are responsible for complying with the green energy requirements for all electrical meters for which they are the account holder. 

For a link to the text of the ordinance, click here.

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