Over the last several years, energy use benchmarking programs have been introduced in over 15 American cities with major cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Chicago included in that group. While all the programs vary, most require energy use reporting for commercial and multi-family buildings over 50,000 square feet. In most cities, energy use reporting is mandatory and reporting obligations are enforceable by penalty. For example, in Chicago, the energy benchmarking ordinance provides for enforcement penalties of $100.00 for the first day of non-compliance and compounding at a rate of $25 per day to a total amount of $9,200 per year.
The emergence of such energy use benchmarking programs has been concurrent with an increasing awareness of the importance of energy efficiency and general energy use demand side management. Over the last 24 years, the Environmental Power Agency (EPA) has promoted the energy star program, which rewards products and buildings with recognition for their energy efficiency. Part of the product suite that the EPA offers is an energy use measurement tool called Portfolio Manager. Portfolio Manager allows commercial and municipal property owners/ managers a platform from which to measure the energy efficiency of their particular building against similar type buildings in the United States after adjusting for weather. An example might be comparing a high school in Chicago to similar high schools in the nation. Certainly, there are differences in weather and environment, but the program statistically adjusts for those differences and provides a comparison of one building against a national set of similar buildings. The program measures total energy (electricity, natural gas, and water) use intensity as well as measuring total carbon emissions.
Portfolio Manager is not the only energy use measurement tool, but it is widely used (an example is that almost all of the mandatory programs referenced earlier require that the property complying report using Portfolio Manager). Mandatory compliance (alfaenergy provides reporting services for many of our Chicago clients) is one reason to use portfolio manager. However, it makes sense for most customers of a certain size to begin to measure the energy performance of their buildings. One of the drivers of the mandatory reporting programs is the belief that the overall energy performance of a property has an impact on the property value. This trend is likely to continue and owners and operators of properties should really start to understand their energy use performance in more detail. It is said that to solve a problem you need to be able to measure it and Portfolio Manager provides a way to measure and compare energy use.
Analyst – David Mousseau