Here’s the skinny on several updates to the Energy Star scoring and certification system, and the Portfolio Manager tool.
Since awarding the first Energy Star for a top-performing building more than 20 years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program for commercial buildings has certified more than 34,000 commercial buildings for superior energy efficiency. On average, these buildings use 35 percent less energy than typical buildings nationwide. And Energy Star is continuing to find new ways to provide businesses and organizations with relevant energy-efficiency resources to help reduce energy waste in buildings and plants.
During the past two decades, the Energy Star program has been expanded and updated to ensure that it remains a valuable tool. Here’s an update on what’s coming in 2019 to help facility managers start — or grow — energy savings.
Update: Energy Star score
The 1-100 Energy Star score is the national benchmark for energy performance. Users enter information about their buildings into Portfolio Manager, EPA’s no-cost, online resource management tool. Using information, which includes key operational details and actual energy use, the tool calculates a score that compares a building’s energy performance to similar buildings nationwide, after adjusting for weather and other factors that drive energy use. It’s a percentile ranking, meaning that a score of 50 is the median. If a building scores less than 50, it’s performing worse than half of all similar buildings nationwide and may be a good target for cost-effective, energy-efficiency improvements. A score of 75 or higher indicates a building is performing in the top 25 percent of buildings nationwide and may be eligible for Energy Star certification. The 1-100 Energy Star score provides a clear, simple picture of a building’s energy performance.
It’s important to understand that one building is not compared to other buildings in Portfolio Manager. Instead, many of the score models compare a building’s adjusted performance to the national building stock, represented by the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), which is conducted by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).
EIA released its most recent CBECS data after a 9-year gap. The data not only showed that buildings are getting more efficient overall, but also revealed that — thanks to changes in technology — in some cases, key factors influencing energy use have also changed.
To account for the changes in building energy performance, EPA updated and released new 1-100 Energy Star scores for many building types in August 2018. Consistent with the overall efficiency gains in the national building stock, the average Energy Star score for most building types went down after the model updates.
Reinstating Energy Star certification
EPA implemented a review period for the new score models once the scores were live in Portfolio Manager last fall. During the review period, EPA specifically solicited feedback on the application of those models to various commercial building sectors and the resulting scores to help us ensure that the models are working as intended to deliver energy performance metrics that empower users to make the business case for owning and operating energy-efficient buildings. EPA is working in conjunction with stakeholders and technical experts to conduct analyses that are possible now that stakeholders are able to update their data and calculate their revised scores in Portfolio Manager. EPA also suspended Energy Star certification until the score review was completed.
Thanks to insightful feedback and engagement from the Energy Star stakeholder community, EPA has spent the past few months targeting key areas for review and additional analysis across all new score models and has recently begun to finalize the analysis on a rolling basis, with the first two reinstatements complete for the warehouse and hotel scores and certification. EPA’s extensive analyses during the review period confirm that the models are properly capturing the efficiency improvements of the last decade, as well as important changes in how energy is used in buildings. Based on these results, no additional adjustments have been made to the warehouse or hotel models released in August 2018.
The next two score models to be reinstated will be K-12 schools and houses of worship in mid- to late May. Office and retail are planned for reinstatement in the summer. More details and a schedule can be found here.
Jean Lupinacci (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chief, Energy Star Commercial and Industrial Branch, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency