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ENERGY STAR Certification Process Suspension Update

Aug. 23, 2018

1-100 ENERGY STAR scores are updating to reflect Environmental Protection Agency performance metrics based on the most recent data available.

UPDATE, April 24, 2019:

ENERGY STAR has announced that it is “wrapping up” the third phase—analyzing the models and evaluating score changes on buildings benchmarking in Portfolio Manager—of its process to reevaluate its scoring models.

“As we complete the review for each model, we will share a summary of our findings, describing the comments and analysis conducted,” the organization said in a statement. “We will send the findings to our partners and post them to the ENERGY STAR website for each model prior to reinstating certification.”

Below is the schedule for reinstating certification for the first four models:

  • Warehouses: Early May
  • Hotels: Early May
  • Houses of worship: Late May
  • K-12 schools: Late May

Additional analysis is still needed for the office and retail models. “We hope to have those reinstated in the summer,” the statement said.

UPDATE, December 13, 2018:

ENERGY STAR has announced that it has completed the first phase, listening and engagement, of its process to reevaluate its scoring models.

“We’ve completed the first phase and received many comments from a wide variety of stakeholders—thank you again to everyone who submitted feedback,” the organization said in a statement.

It is now “well-underway” in the second phase, analysis based on feedback. ENERGY STAR anticipates finishing its analysis and resuming ENERGY STAR certification on a rolling basis. The goal is to complete at least two scoring models in January 2019.

UPDATE, October 31, 2018:

In September 2018, ENERGY STAR announced that it has temporarily suspended its certification process in the U.S. after concerns were raised about the updated scoring model.

“The review period will help us ensure that the models are working as intended to deliver energy performance metrics that empower you to make the business case for owning and operating energy-efficient buildings,” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in a statement. “EPA will work in conjunction with stakeholders and technical experts to conduct this analysis and adjust the scoring models, if needed.”

The review period will be conducted in three phases, said Enesta Jones, senior press officer for the EPA.

1. Listening and engagement

2. Analysis based on feedback

3. Communication of results

Scores were expected to drop across the board because of the increased number of buildings participating in ENERGY STAR and the updated metrics used to calculate scores. According to The Wall Street Journal, many property owners were “shocked” and “didn’t think their scores would fall so far they would no longer get the coveted ENERGY STAR status.”

In its statement, the EPA said that this review period will include further evaluation of score changes for U.S. buildings of different sizes, locations and fuel mixes. Jones said that the first phase (listening and engagement) is complete for all property types. During that time, ENERGY STAR solicited and collected feedback online through October 10. Phase two (analysis based on feedback) has begun for office buildings.

“We remain committed to working with you, our stakeholder community, to ensure that ENERGY STAR delivers the best outcomes for the environment and for business.” - EPA statement

“We’ve completed a preliminary analysis of office scores, based on the comments we received, and are currently discussing the results with stakeholders who provided comments to us,” Jones said. “During these discussions, we’ll be determining the next level of analysis to be conducted.”

This August, ENERGY STAR announced that scores – which range on a scale from 1 to 100 – would change due to an update in its performance metrics on the most recent data available, which are based on a 2012 survey. This survey is conducted every five years, but the one done in 2007 had to be thrown out because of a methodology issue. That means scores have been based on a survey that’s 15 years old.

It was projected that schools, office buildings and retail would experience the largest drop in score.

The EPA statement added, “We remain committed to working with you, our stakeholder community, to ensure that ENERGY STAR delivers the best outcomes for the environment and for business.”

Original article was posted on August 23, 2018 below:

You have likely noticed a sudden slight or significant change to your 1-100 ENERGY STAR score. But don’t panic – scores will change across the board. That’s because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has updated its performance metrics based on the most recent data available. (Photo from ENERGY STAR)

Why Did the ENERGY STAR Score Change?

On average, in Portfolio Manager, the scores – which are used to benchmark buildings’ energy performance – will drop. The change depends on a building’s energy use, fuel mix, business activity, property type and other factors. But the prominent shift is partly due to the fact that previous scores were based on data from 2003.

This data derives from the Department of Energy’s Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, conducted every four years. The most recent data made available in 2016, which the EPA is now using for scores, is based on a 2012 survey.

“In between those two time periods, the Department of Energy had to take back its [2007] survey,” says Leslie Cook, national program manager with ENERGY STAR Commercial Buildings at the EPA. “There were some issues with methodology. There’s been a bigger gap in our updates than we’ve previously experienced. That’s partly why they’re seeing a more pronounced change in the scores. It’s been quite a while since we’ve been able to update it.”

The average decrease in scores signifies an overall improvement in the energy performance of U.S. buildings. “Since our score is a comparison to the market, and the market’s more efficient, it’s leading to a shift,” Cook says.

Property types with affected scores include:

  • Bank branches
  • Courthouses
  • Financial offices
  • Hotels
  • Houses of worship
  • K-12 schools
  • Offices
  • Retail, including retail stores and wholesale clubs/supercenters
  • Supermarkets
  • Warehouses, including refrigerated, non-refrigerated and distribution centers

In the graph below, average score changes are broken down by building type. Schools, offices and retail will experience the largest drop in score, while hotels will experience on average a slight increase. “People are going to experience something in that range, but it’s not exactly that for every building,” Cook says. (Photo from ENERGY STAR)

The EPA and ENERGY STAR recommended downloading and saving your current score before the change takes effect in case it’s needed for any kind of third-party certification, such as LEED.

ENERGY STAR will not be able to provide before-and-after reports in Portfolio Manager now that the change has occured.

Related: Track Sustainable Development with Energy Master Plan

“Perhaps they’re taking part in upgrade projects and they want to document their current scores,” Cook says. “We update the metrics. So all periods of time that you have in your account – if the benchmark is, say, 2010 – all of those metrics and scores are going to be updated going back in time.”

What to Do After the Change

To help guide you through the update, ENERGY STAR recorded training webinars, all available online to watch at any time. 

“We want to help people understand what changed and why and how it’s a good thing,” Cook says. “It’s a better, more accurate picture of how your buildings are performing to others. We’re really hoping folks understand that our goal is to give you the best, most accurate comparison that we can provide.”

ENERGY STAR plans to switch gears not only to help you understand the changed scores – but to help you raise them. “We don’t want to just update the metrics and leave folks hanging,” Cook adds. A new slate of materials will be released to help you find savings and identify low-hanging fruit.

Don’t miss these: 3 Money-Saving Energy Products for 2018

“The idea is that it will help identify those buildings to revisit that maybe you thought were top performers but actually, now that we’ve updated the comparisons, there’s an understanding that there are opportunities [for adjustments].”

One new piece of material to help find savings will be what ENERGY STAR is calling “treasure hunts,” an audit process that can be done in a day. “We think that people will start to take another look at those buildings and hopefully realize that there are actually a lot more savings to be found,” Cook says.

Sustainability at the Forefront

In the 15 years since the ENERGY STAR performance metrics have been updated, the focus on sustainability has grown. Cook says that to be a Class-A office building in an urban setting, for example, it’s imperative to show some sort of commitment to sustainability.

“There’s been a growing focus on efficiency overall, both for energy cost savings and to reduce carbon footprint, compared to what was going on back in 2003,” she adds. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I think just in general it’s a different world, in terms of who’s paying attention to their energy bills.”

ENERGY STAR encourages users to keep up-to-date on its website to find announcements about webinars and cost-saving materials and to ask questions. 

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About the Author

Sarah Kloepple | Associate Editor

Sarah joined the BUILDINGS team as an associate editor in August 2018. She is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, where her focus was magazine writing. She's written and edited for numerous publications in her hometown of St. Louis.

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