California often leads the herd in energy-wise legislation, and a new law shows that it still holds true. Signed by Governor Jerry Brown on October 8, the new benchmarking program for large residential and commercial buildings is a first in energy consumption transparency and reporting. And it’s a trend that’s spreading across the country.
California Energy Commission Establishes New Program
Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill, AB 802, which makes California first among all states to require not just annual reporting on commercial properties, but also larger, multifamily buildings. Once reported, the information will be made available to the public.
The California Energy Commission is in charge of program implementation, says Caroline Massie for Architect magazine, which means it’s tasked with the creation and distribution of the information necessary for property owners to measure their usage against comparable properties.
Although the program has its roots in 2007, there was one major holdup that kept it from moving forward. Building owners had no access to utility consumption from their respective utility providers. Without that data, Massie explains that the program was more a theory than something the state could mandate, a situation that’s been corrected or will be corrected soon across the state.
Goals that Energy Consumption Transparency Hopes to Achieve
Information is always a good thing, but there’s more to AB 802 than compiling data. The goal of the program has always been to find new ways to save energy and provide building owners and prospective investors with more direction and inspiration on ways to be more energy efficient.
Beginning January 1 of 2017, the legislation requires all utility companies to keep records for a minimum of 12 months, in order to provide them to building owners. Companies aren’t required to automatically give the information to owners, but rather to provide it on request.
Keeping and comparing this data helps building owners have a better understanding of how their usage compares to their own historical data. But perhaps more important, it allows them to compare their usage with those of neighboring properties. If one building has a much better track record, there’s reason enough to find out why and work to improve.
California isn’t the only state moving toward more energy transparency according to Massie’s interactive Energy Benchmark Map. Several locations are adopting similar policies. For example, Seattle, WA, has adopted a policy that all commercial and multifamily buildings over 20,000 square feet must benchmark every year. In Utah, public buildings are subject to benchmarking. Boston has a policy that affects a wider swath of buildings. And there are many others, with likely many more to follow.
Energy benchmarking is all about improvement. While some might not favor the idea of sharing information between different buildings, especially if they are competitors, the hoped-for result is that awareness will make for much better energy efficient upgrades, practices and materials in new designs.
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