Updated Portfolio Manager Will Make It Easier To Input, Report, Share Energy Data
While EPA will maintain the existing approach to computing Energy Stars scores, and all the data transfer is automatic (users don't have to do anything), there are several aspects of the upgrade with which facility managers should familiarize themselves. The updated Portfolio Manager tool offers advantages over its predecessor in several key areas.
Inputting, reporting, and sharing energy data are three examples. Indeed, the first thing users will notice, says Sullivan, is a totally retooled interface that will make data input much easier and more efficient. EPA describes the new data input interface as similar to Turbo Tax — users are asked questions such as "does your building have a parking lot?" — and then given another suite of questions depending on the response.
"It's more intuitive and with more varied options for data entry," says Sullivan. "There are new wizards that walk users through the data-entry process. And it gives you alerts along the way if something doesn't match."
Lupinacci says the tool will be faster and easier for new and non-technical users to understand. So many new users are coming to Portfolio Manager now for the first time, and the goal is to make the process as streamlined as possible so they don't get frustrated. "We're enhancing the wizards and the graphics," she says. "We made it so it's not a chore getting data in, so that users can spend their time managing their data."
Of course, a major part of managing data is reporting and sharing that data, and the Portfolio Manager update helps in these regards as well.
"Users have access to many more graphs and tables in the new tool," says Sullivan. Graphs and tables that display greenhouse gas emissions, energy use intensity, and many other metrics (users can choose to use the available functionality for metrics like green energy purchases or water use, as well) are available, and users can export these graphs as images for sharing with occupants or upper managers. Users also have more tools to share data with other Portfolio Manager users in a social network-like setting, if they so choose, says Sullivan.
The upgraded Portfolio Manager also includes much more functionality in terms of sharing and reporting data automatically from a utility or service provider to Portfolio Manager and from Portfolio Manager to other entities, like a compliance officer.
Indeed, many of the new features for reporting and sharing data were influenced by the new energy disclosure laws now on the books, and the many that are sure to come soon. The new Portfolio Manager tool offers features to help users comply with laws in their areas. For one, users get receipts of all compliance submissions. This basically helps prevent a replication of effort, says Sullivan, and consultants can use the receipt to demonstrate successful submission to their clients. Additionally, users can enter city-specific numbers, such as numbers associated with the tax assessor's office, to help the city track compliance. And finally, the new tool includes a preview function that allows users to review their submission before actually submitting it.
In summary, says Sullivan, "It's simply a lot easier to get data in and out of the tool through new interfaces and wizards, and reporting will be easier and more robust."