Boston, MA: Energy performance

Cumulative (vs. Baseline)18%
Annual (2020)7%

Better Buildings Challenge Partners strive to decrease portfolio-wide source energy use intensity (EUI) and to increase the percent improvement compared to a set baseline. Boston's portfolio consists of more than 250 buildings and 16 million square feet. *Boston has improved energy performance by 18% from a 2011 baseline, making progress towards a goal of 20% by 2023. Energy consumption during 2020 was significantly lower than a typical year since COVID-19 disruptions resulted in temporary building closures and reduced occupancy for much of the year. To date, the City of Boston has funded all energy conservation projects from capital budgets (lighting retrofits, HVAC upgrades, Building Automation Systems/controls). Energy efficiency projects must compete for capital funding with all other major departmental needs. The Renew Boston Trust has begun funding capital projects outside of the typical capital upgrade request process. Phase 1 of Renew Boston Trust is complete and the City has guaranteed annual energy savings of 2,394,832.9 kWh, 52,074.5 therms, 1,247.6 klbs of steam across 14 buildings. Solar PV arrays installed in Phase One should also generate 375,000+ kWh annually.


Looking at the percent improvement in energy performance across all properties can provide insight into how an organization is saving energy. Boston's approach to energy efficiency has been largely focused on individual assets, rather than whole-building retrofits. The city has replaced approximately 75% of streetlights to LEDs, which is a perfect example of a 1-for-1 equipment replacement. Likewise, most building efficiency projects have been one-off activities, such as additional points on a BMS or LED spotlighting in lobbies, which rely on capital budgets and utility incentives. Boston's energy performance contracting has become institutionalized. The city is  planning to spend roughly $20 million in Phase 2 which has a preliminary annual savings of 1,238,288 kWh, 63,682 therms, 2,345 gallons of Fuel Oil #2, and 2,084 kgal. Buildings in Phase 3 have tentatively been selected and will include 15 buildings (largely schools). The City of Boston, through the Renew Boston Trust, will explore geothermal retrofits for the first time in municipal buildings in Phase 3.


Property-level energy performance metrics, including EUI and percent improvement to date, are critical to track progress over time and identify opportunties for additional energy savings. Of the city's 300+ buildings, over tow-thirds of the 16 million square feet belong to Boston Public Schools. A substantial portion of these schools are pre-war buildings and do not have cooling, resulting in relatively low EUIs. There are also a subset of 70's vintage buildings, which tend to be less efficient and represent the largest opportunities for energy conservation measures.