Mobilizing Market Force for Building Energy Efficiency through Benchmarking and Disclosure: Inspiring Experiences from New York and Other Cities


Non-residential buildings represent 28.3 percent of building energy consumption in China. Within non-residential buildings, large buildings (individual buildings over 20,000 square meters) consume 38 percent of energy while they only account for 8.3 percent of the total area of non-residential buildings. Therefore, large non-residential buildings that are energy intensive and inefficient have become one of the Chinese government’s priority areas for reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Since the implementation of the 11th Five-year Plan, the Chinese government has been implementing policies and measures to support market-based solutions. These include requiring the collection of energy consumption data, conducting energy audits, imposing energy use quotas for large non-residential buildings, and disclosing the energy consumption data of some government buildings and large non-residential buildings. However, we have discovered that their approach, imposing quotas for building energy consumption, is problematic. Disclosure is not practically implemented, and it failed to unlock the market as expected. The main issues are: 1) the collected information is not synthesized, processed, shared or utilized in a timely fashion; 2) there is no unified standard for data disclosure, which makes comparison difficult; 3) there are no detailed guidelines on building energy consumption data disclosure; and 4) data collection completely relies on research projects that are funded by the government, while stakeholders are not heavily involved, which has made the data collection process costly and slow.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) conducted an in-depth study on the best practices of New York City. We have made great efforts to collect and analyze related literature and interview people who were involved in policy making to better understand the policy’s context, purpose and considerations, obstacles to implementation, the city’s efforts, and the initial results of the policy. This report mainly focuses on our study of New York City, but also introduces similar practices in eight other cities and two states in the U.S. Based on our analysis of these cases, the report extracts the necessary elements of the best practices, which include policy scope, implementation time frame, data quality control methods, disclosure mechanisms, compliance and follow-up approaches.

(The document is available in Chinese only.)