Our Energy Consulting Firm Explains This Key Energy Benchmark Tool
Several states and cities are beginning to require large buildings to benchmark their energy consumption and carbon emissions. As a top energy consulting firm, we can advise you on the best way to benchmark your energy efficiency. By far, the most popular compliance platform is the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.
Portfolio Manager is a benchmarking tool provided by ENERGY STAR, a government-backed energy efficiency program. The web-based tool is free and available to those in the U.S. and Canada. The platform is designed for all building types and is particularly useful for commercial buildings. For example, 40% of commercial building space in the U.S. use Portfolio Manager to track their usage. It allows users to compare their building’s energy use to their past use and similar buildings.
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UsingPortfolio Manager for energy benchmarking is required by law in many cities and some states for buildings of a certain size. The most recent state to enact a benchmarking ordinance is New Jersey, which will require benchmarking for commercial buildings starting in 2023. Annual whole-building energy and water data are collected in the tool, along with various building use detail metrics, which differ based on the building use type (ex: office vs. dormitory vs. hospital). This information is then converted to an ENERGY STAR Score of 1-100. The score compares a building’s energy usage intensity (EUI) to similar buildings in similar climate zones. For example, a score of 50 represents median building efficiency, while a lower score reflects a less efficient building and a higher score reflects a more efficient building..
Along with annual benchmarking requirements, buildings in New York City greater than 25,000 square feet need to post their ENERGY STAR scores (and the assigned letter-grade conversion) prominently in the building’s entrance under Local Law 33/95. NYC has further expanded the benchmarking ordinance via Local Law 97 to include restrictions on building carbon emissions per square foot, as reported in Portfolio Manager. Similarly, Boston has enacted Building Emissions Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance rules (BERDO 2.0) which require buildings to meet carbon emissions targets.
Building owners can look at EUIs and ENERGY STAR Scores across their building portfolio to help prioritise capital projects for energy efficiency. Poorer performing buildings, ie. those with lower ENERGY STAR scores, can be picked out and targeted for improvement. Furthermore, Portfolio Manager is used to calculate a building’s greenhouse gas emissions from both on-site combustion (scope 1) and purchased electricity (scope 2). Portfolio Manager does not solely incorporate energy. It can also be used to track water usage, as well as waste and materials, allowing it to become a more comprehensive sustainability tracker.
In addition to benchmarking ordinances, Portfolio Manager is used to track information for voluntary programs including the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge and ENERGY STAR’s Higher Education Benchmarking Initiative. Whether required by law, or initiated by program participation, benchmarking is a valuable exercise for building owners, because as the saying goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”.
However, the tool does have its limitations. The primary goal of the platform is energy benchmarking to inform you of overall building efficiency and comparisons. The interface does not allow users to pinpoint specific areas of inefficiency within the building or identify how individual pieces of equipment operate. To determine more precise information about a building’s efficiency, an energy audit through an energy consulting firm is required. Although building audits can vary in detail and depth, they are generally more detailed than benchmarking as they provide insight into how a building operates.
If your institution requires assistance with benchmarking, auditing, or energy efficiency improvements, please reach out to the Environ Energy team. Have our energy consulting firm advise you on the best ways to track your energy use. For a one-on-one consultation, give us a call or fill out our online contact form.