As Energy-Use Benchmarking Increases, Energy Star Upgrades Portfolio Manager
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched Energy Star Portfolio Manager in 2000, facility managers who were doing detailed energy tracking and analytics may have been considered on the leading edge. Today, however, measuring and benchmarking energy use is standard practice, and Portfolio Manager is the most widely used tool for doing so. Thirteen years and nearly 300,000 buildings since its launch, Portfolio Manager continues to expand.
This month (July 2013), after several years of work, EPA launched a major retooling and upgrade of the Portfolio Manager tool. The goal of the upgrade is to scale up and meet the demands of an increasingly benchmarking-savvy industry, says Alexandra Sullivan, technical development manager for Energy Star Commercial Buildings.
According to Jean Lupinacci, chief of the Energy Star commercial and industrial branch, three overarching trends influenced the launch of the upgraded Portfolio Manager tool. First is simply the "phenomenal growth and acceptance of energy benchmarking," says Lupinacci. Spurred by the volatility of energy prices and concerns about commercial buildings' contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change, as well as recent energy disclosure laws in cities like Austin, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York City, and states like California and Washington, total floor space included in Portfolio Manager has doubled since 2009. About 40 percent of all U.S. commercial building space is now part of Portfolio Manager.
Part of the reason energy benchmarking has become standard facility management procedure, and the second trend, according to Lupinacci, is that proven results link energy benchmarking to energy use reductions. A recent EPA study found that buildings that benchmark energy use for three consecutive years save an average of 2.4 percent per year, says Lupinacci.
Thirdly, because people, not buildings, use energy, as the saying goes, and because Energy Star has become such a recognizable brand (consumer awareness of Energy Star is at about 85 percent, according to Lupinacci), Energy Star is a great platform for a more in-depth dialogue about building energy use. "Rather than just the purview of engineers and technical people, Energy Star is an opportunity to educate everyone in the building," says Lupinacci. And more and more facility managers understand this, and are availing themselves of this chance.