Editorials

More energy-efficient buildings could help renters in Kansas City

A new plan could require owners of large buildings to publicly report their energy use in the future, in a bid to promote energy conservation.
A new plan could require owners of large buildings to publicly report their energy use in the future, in a bid to promote energy conservation. File photo

A City Council panel this week will take a closer look at an intriguing proposal to measure energy use in Kansas City’s largest buildings.

Eventually, as yet another mark of a forward-looking city, Mayor Sly James and the full council could have good reasons to pass an ordinance requiring those building owners in a few years to tell the public how much energy their structures use.

Current and future customers would have a better idea whether they are paying rent in an energy-efficient building. They also might find out the owner is charging higher rents to pay excessive utility costs.

Supporters offer valid reasons to move ahead. Transparency would promote conservation, save money through lower energy costs, boost local firms that specialize in energy-efficient upgrades and reduce harmful pollution through the burning of less coal.

Critics fear public reporting will expose problems with their buildings, which could lead to loss of renters and business. One noted the plan will create “winners and losers.” That is possible.

But the reporting also would show which owners have invested in energy-efficient structures, helping them attract more renters. Meanwhile, owners of less-efficient buildings would have the opportunity to improve their use of energy, giving them a brighter future.

The city is taking the lead by saying it will measure and report energy use in its larger buildings, as a way to find ways to save taxpayer funds.

Opponents contend reporting would be an unfunded mandate. The counter: Building owners will use a federal Energy Star plan that will do a lot of the calculating for them.

In the end, a small investment in public reporting could pay big dividends for the owners — and for renters.

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