It’s often said, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” As such, benchmarking is the cornerstone of energy management.
Luckily for California, Assembly Bill 802 passed by a landslide in the California State Senate last month. The bill requires that utilities publicly disclose aggregate energy utility data for buildings over 50,000 square feet. It also reimagines and streamlines the California Energy Commission’s existing benchmarking program, setting a best building practices precedent.
The Energy Commission will now identify what energy usage data needs to be collected and create infrastructure to gather it on a normalized platform. This will be useful for comparing energy performance of buildings to those that are similar or meet the same specific standard, such as an energy code.
As an initiative that San Francisco building owners have enjoyed for years, this new bill is great news for building owners across the state. Unlocking access to building performance data is key to understanding how properties operate, and in turn, discovering where potential energy and cost saving improvements lie.
For current building owners looking to maximize building efficiency to save energy and costs, benchmarking can help you understand whether the building is performing at the same level as similar buildings and unveil clues to whether human error or mechanical/electrical system inefficiency is to blame. Once identified, these inefficiencies can be addressed with low to no cost strategies to course-correct prior to making investments in more efficient systems and renewable energy.
Using the energy data, stok’s building energy auditors can investigate the performance of energy-related equipment and systems to help pin point operational errors and inefficiencies and create a game plan to improve effectiveness and cost.
For example, the data may reveal that an office building has higher than expected electrical loads on weekends. stok identifies this and investigates the cause, finding that the lighting controls were not working properly and the lights were coming on during unoccupied hours. We adjust them to default to the occupancy sensors rather than time of day, and see the energy impact in the data.
Building owners and operators often also utilize financing for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy. stok’s team can ensure that new systems implemented are compliant with code and operating at peak efficiency through commissioning.
This bill can be seen as a step toward California’s move to Net Zero Energy for commercial buildings by 2030. Better data will lead to better understanding of how far off the state currently is from its goal and help the Energy Commission develop recommendations for new buildings to meet this target. The new aggregate data will help inform and better refine stok’s energy model baselines to help building owners and architects achieve peak efficiency in your designs.
And leave it to California’s forward-thinking technology market to help implement the bill; advancements in cloud computing and data analytics have led to a new crop of savings measurement software tools.
Think of utilities as the gatekeeper of whole-building information that owners currently can’t fully access. This bill’s ability to catalyze the standardization of data will transform the way that energy data is communicated. Among the groups that have called for this step forward in the energy management process are BOMA International, the Real Estate Roundtable, the National Association of State Energy Officials, and the U.S. Department of Energy, according to the Institute for Market Transformation.
AB 802 is just one of a few big advancements the sustainable building industry has seen this year, with another being the mandated LEED v4 standard for all new projects starting this fall. The bill will go into effect in 2017 with data available by 2019 for commercial buildings and 2020 for multi-family residential buildings. It’s enforced by the California Energy Commission, with non-compliance subject to fines.
Standardized, accessible building energy data can transform your understanding of your energy use as an end user. This is an opportunity for building owners to see how you’re performing and look for ways to improve – not only will it save you energy, but money in the long run, and make tenants happier as well.