ENERGY STAR Scoring Metrics are Changing: Here's What You Need to Know

A key aspect of the ENERGY STAR Program’s objective has been to provide a platform to help buildings operate more efficiently. ENERGY STAR scores for commercial buildings are based on the most recent data available. And because energy efficiency in buildings has generally improved across the board, the ENERGY STAR program is updating its scoring metrics to provide more accurate benchmarking for building performance.

For additional details and perspective, we connected with Tracy Narel, National Manager, C&I Solution Provider Partnerships at EPA's ENERGY STAR Program for Commercial Buildings, for a Q&A on the update.

Q: What is changing?

We are making several changes within our ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool. Those changes include our ENERGY STAR score models for select property types, the site-to-source factors (which affect source EUI), and GHG emissions metrics. We’re also making a change to allow for IT energy estimates for data centers within larger buildings.

Q. When will these changes take effect?

Monday, August 27.

Q: Why are these changes happening?

ENERGY STAR score models are based on the most recently available data. Until now, the most recent data set we had was the 2003 CBECS. Now that 2012 CBECS data is available, we’re updating our models to reflect it. EPA’s basic approach is not changing: We still provide a national level benchmark, based on source energy, that normalizes for weather and business activity, and does not factor in technology choices.

Typically, these updates happen somewhat gradually (typically every four years). However, with a nine-year gap between available CBECS data releases, this round of updates may have a more pronounced effect. 

Q.What does this mean for those who use Portfolio Manager?

On average, ENERGY STAR scores for most building types will go down, since the score is a comparison with the national building stock, and the national building stock has improved in efficiency. Additionally, source energy factor changes will result in small score changes, even for property types where the underlying score model is not changing.

Q: What should people do to prepare?

Since all information (including historical) will be updated on August 27, you may want to document your buildings’ current scores and metrics. To do this, download reports from the Reporting tab, including standard reports (example: Performance Highlights) and PDF reports (example: Statement of Energy Performance).

Q: What about buildings that are eligible for ENERGY STAR certification now, but may not be after August 27?

It’s not too late to apply for certification using pre-update scores, even if it hasn’t been a full year since your last certification. All applications submitted before August 26 will be evaluated using the pre-update metrics. However, if changes to your application are required after August 26, it will be evaluated using the updated score models. Bottom line: Apply as soon as possible to maximize your chances of being approved before the updates take effect.

Q: What can people do if their scores drop?

Beyond all the usual steps, this October we’ll be promoting “Treasure Hunt Season.” Treasure Hunts are a great way to find quick, easy fixes with a quick payback. For some, that could be a good interim step while larger improvements are being planned. We’ll have guides, Treasure Maps, templates, and savings calculators on our website later this month.

Q: Where can people go to learn more?

General information is at www.energystar.gov/scoreupdates. We also have communications materials at www.energystar.gov/scoreupdates#toolkit, and technical reference materials on new score models available at https://www.energystar.gov/buildings/tools-and-resources starting August 27.

Learn more about how you can make ENERGY STAR and other reporting processes easier and more accurate
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Authored By Colin Neagle

Colin is a marketing manager for EnerNOC and editor-in-chief of the EnergySMART blog.

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