Providence announces new, emissions-focused ordinance proposals

CITY OF PROVIDENCE officials on Wednesday announced a series of new policies intended to further the goals of its 2019 Climate Justice Plan. / COURTESY CITY OF PROVIDENCE

PROVIDENCE – The city is moving forward with several proposals aimed at furthering its commitment to lower emissions and increase climate resiliency. 

Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and several city council members on Wednesday announced a series of new and already-approved ordinances intended to advance the goals outlined in the city’s Climate Justice Plan.

Chief among them is a proposal that would require large commercial, institutional, and multifamily-residential buildings to assess and report their annual energy use. The Building Energy Reporting Ordinance is slated to be introduced at the council’s Jan. 21 meeting. As drafted, buildings over 10,000 square feet would be required to use a free, online management tool to track their energy performance and report it to the city, with subsequent “energy action savings” required for buildings displaying “poor performance” based upon five years of data.

If approved, data collection would start this year, with reporting due to the city by May 2022, according to Ben Smith, Elorza’s press secretary.

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“Cities across the country are benchmarking energy usage because it results in real cost savings and helps us measure progress toward sustainability,” Councilwoman Helen Anthony said in a statement. “If Providence is to become carbon neutral by 2050, we must engage every part of our economy and use every tool we have.”

The policy is “critical” to reducing emissions, expected to slash carbon emissions by more than 7,000 tons and $14 billion by 2030 – enough to power 6,000 homes for a year, according to city calculations.  

The city saw average energy use decline by 7% among the 35,000 city buildings that reported energy use through the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager from 2008 to 2011.

The council will also take up an ordinance codifying the Climate Justice Plan, including its goal of going carbon neutral by 2050, with incremental benchmarks along the way.

The City Council recently passed two ordinances also based upon its climate initiatives: one to develop environmental guidelines on city purchase and a second to develop a plan for residential composting.

The Climate Justice Plan was unveiled in 2019, with an emphasis on equity and environmental justice for lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at

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