Today, you’ll likely notice 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 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  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
- Financial offices
- Houses of worship
- K-12 schools
- Retail, including retail stores and wholesale clubs/supercenters
- 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.
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“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. You can also register now for free upcoming webinars on Wednesday, Aug. 29, and Wednesday, Sept. 5. Both will take place at 1 p.m. Eastern 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.
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“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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