Energy Star Portfolio Manager: How It is Used for Benchmarking
More than 75 percent of U.S. households recognize the ENERGY STAR label and the program has been tested and vetted. It makes sense that using ENERGY STAR tools to implement energy efficiency programs is the de facto choice around the country.
Portfolio Manager is the vehicle for achieving an ENERGY STAR label, which designates buildings in the top 25 percent of their peer class. The comparison is made against statistically representative models of facilities in the Department of Energy’s Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey, or CBECS.
However, most jurisdictions don’t require achieving the label. Most don’t mandate any level of performance. So just the act of mandating disclosure and benchmarking is a step in the right direction toward market transformation.
“What EPA doesn’t do is disclose ratings,” says Jean Lupinacci, ENERGY STAR Commercial & Industrial Branch director, adding that people aren’t likely to voluntarily disclose scores if they’re not good news. “Disclosure is a way to get information out there that can change decisions. It’s more information that you would get from a voluntary program.”
Beyond achieving the label, Portfolio Manager can be used for general benchmarking purposes to identify which buildings in a portfolio are under-performing, establish energy use baselines and track energy and water use, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Even if a building cannot be compared to its peers through an ENERGY STAR rating because its facility type is not included in CBECS, comparisons can still be made based on the Energy Use Intensity calculation, expressed as kBtu per square foot per year.
One concern when benchmarking and disclosure moves from voluntary to compulsory with the intent to assign value to efficiency ratings is that some might be tempted to fudge the numbers. In California, “the onus is on the owner to be honest,” says Brook. As the disclosure is part of a financial transaction, the inherent check is that parties can be sued if they misrepresent information. In Washington, D.C., because anyone can see the data, unscrupulous owners risk the scrutiny of countless peers. But at this point, neither legislation has an official verification component.
It’s up to the individual jurisdictions to decide what level of verification they need, says Lupinacci. Portfolio Manager is not a policing mechanism, but even so, ENERGY STAR is taking steps to fortify it against bad data and enhance its ability to support the needs of the different laws. New features will include enhanced external reporting tools to create analytical reports and checklists for quality control. There are already flags in the tool if data appears to be missing or there are gaps in a time frame.
Looking to the Future
As approaches to energy benchmarking evolve and broaden, more players are getting into the mix. For example, ASHRAE has introduced a prototype building energy label as part of its Building Energy Quotient program (Building EQ). The program is designed to include both asset and operational ratings for all building types, except residential, and is scheduled to launch in 2010. The label awards a letter grade, mirroring the system already in use by the European Union.
On the national level, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill, by a vote of 219-212. It in part proposes greater energy efficiency in building codes and establishing a building energy performance labeling program.
Even as national benchmarking legislation is debated, the U.S. government has already ruled that as of 2010 federal agencies may only lease in ENERGY STAR-labeled buildings. More local governments are also moving forward with their own legislation. The inherent benefits of benchmarking energy use may have finally ignited the national energy-efficiency zeitgeist. With free benchmarking tools readily available and no special equipment needed to start, it behooves facility executives to get ahead of the curve if energy use measurement and disclosure is not yet mandated in their area.