When the 111th Session of Congress convened in January 2009, many legislators were optimistic that sweeping climate change and energy policy would be a slam dunk. It wasn’t. Now, with the 112th Session underway, conventional wisdom holds that this new Congress will not be able to do a major overhaul in energy policy and will instead focus on smaller, bite-size pieces that are considered non-controversial or bipartisan. We also expect to see even more activity at the state and local levels.
Benchmarking Is Good Business
Let’s take this opportunity to show Congress – and policymakers across the nation – that the private sector is doing its part to reduce energy consumption. And that we’re doing so because it makes good business sense. A critical first step to reducing energy consumption is benchmarking a commercial building’s energy performance using EPA ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and sharing the building’s data with BOMA International (see sidebar on page 19). By benchmarking, you gain access to the robust data needed to make informed decisions, implement equipment tune-ups, prioritize energy efficiency retrofits, and downsize or right size equipment. By agreeing to share your energy management progress with BOMA, you are helping us highlight our industry’s dedication to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
BOMA uses the data you submit to track the progress of the commercial real estate industry and demonstrate the effectiveness of the voluntary marketplace. We believe that the best way to show policymakers that new mandates are unnecessary is to show them that we’re doing it on our own. We have a great story to tell, but we need your help to tell it.
So how do you share? It’s simple and takes just a few seconds when you are updating your information in Portfolio Manager. We’ve put step-by-step directions together, which are available on the BOMA website. BOMA International applies the same confidentiality standards to your ENERGY STAR data that it does when maintaining your operating expense data for the Experience Exchange Report. Be assured that your building energy data is secure, and only aggregate data is used to track progress.
Streamlining Multi-Tenant Benchmarking
While benchmarking is a necessary first step to any proactive energy management program, multi-tenant buildings with separately metered tenants often can’t get the data they need to accurately benchmark. Unless the building owner has signed permission from the tenant, the utility company will not provide this data. In a large building with perhaps over 100 tenants, this just isn’t feasible. This means a large number of building owners and managers don’t have access to the information they need to make informed decisions to drive energy efficiency in their buildings. This also means that, as more and more states and cities implement mandatory benchmarking and disclosure requirements, these buildings will not be able to comply with the new regulations.
Finding a solution to this problem will be one of the industry’s priority issues for 2011. Already, BOMA has been joined by a number of key groups, including the USGBC, the Real Estate Roundtable, and the Institute for Market Transformation, as well as several environmental groups, utilities, and state policymakers, to promote regulations to require the utilities (or, more accurately, the metering entities) to provide whole building aggregate data. Although whole building aggregate data is not as valuable as actual tenant data, it overcomes the privacy and data ownership issues.
A second step to the solution is for utilities to automatically input the data into the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager program. This reduces the time burden of inputting data manually and helps diminish data entry errors. This new coalition will work to educate policymakers at all levels of government, utilities, state regulatory commissions, and every other stakeholder.
Don’t underestimate the power of information. As an industry, benchmarking gives us the power to make informed decisions that will ultimately impact bottom lines while conserving energy. It also gives us the power to demonstrate that the commercial real estate industry is proactively – and voluntarily – making real strides to reduce its energy use.
Karen Penafiel is vice president of advocacy for BOMA International. She can be reached at email@example.com.