Energy Star Portfolio Manager

The ENERGY STAR program, established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 20 years ago, is a voluntary program that promotes energy-efficient products and buildings in order to reduce energy consumption, improve energy security, and reduce pollution.

Many individuals, companies and other organizations have realized estimated savings of over $230 billion on utility bills and prevented more than 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the past two decades, according to EPA estimates.

Updated Measuring and Tracking

EPA recently updated its ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®, an online tool to measure and track energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings achieving a score of 75 or higher using Portfolio Manager must be verified by a licensed professional (professional engineer or registered architect) to be eligible to apply for the ENERGY STAR certification.

Many of our clients use Portfolio Manager to benchmark energy and water use as part of their LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED EB:OM) certifications.

In evaluating the new ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, we found several significant strengths and weaknesses. The strengths, in our view, outweigh the weaknesses as highlighted below.

Strengths:

The tool appears to be much faster. There is an option to generate a custom utility upload spreadsheet template from which to upload utility data for one or multiple meters and utility type for one or multiple buildings. This speeds up transfer of data into the tool so you can identify how the building is performing with less manual manipulation.

The tool is more intuitive to use. The addition of tabs called My Portfolio, Sharing, Planning, Reporting, Recognition, and Property Level simplify corporate reporting and rolling data up to the C-suite in a concise format. The tabs also help to centralize the tasks of energy operations teams with clear efficiency targets and the ability to track progress across the enterprise. Data entry is made easier with an enhanced user interface, including new built-in wizards.

The addition of 86 function types will expand the potential for data trending and building comparison. The EPA’s new DataTrends series found that “buildings that consistently benchmark energy use save an average of 2.4 percent [energy] per year.” Although the new function types will be benchmarked the same way that the “Other” space type was treated in the old Portfolio Manager, the EPA will be able to examine energy and water benchmarking trends among 86 additional function types. Perhaps a future DataTrends study will show a ranked average energy use savings from consistently benchmarking for each of the more than 80 building types within the new Portfolio Manager.

The ENERGY STAR Certification application process is simplified. Applications can now be submitted electronically rather than mailed, a widget now offers assistance in tracking the progress of applications, and application revisions can be made within Portfolio Manager without the help of User Support.

You can set baselines and targets. A “Goals” tab allows for baselines and targets to be set for the property. This enables the user to generate a table to easily compare metrics.

This is our favorite new feature, especially for testing the impact of different efficiency scenarios and when completing Energy Audits since comparison calculations for different targets are now automated.

Example:

 

 

Portfolio Manager offers a new tool for comparing the energy intent of a new project design to the median building. A “Design” tab allows input for property use, estimated design energy, and target (ENERGY STAR score or % above median) from which a Statement of Energy Design Intent is created. This tab also displays a bar chart of both site and source EUI to compare the property with the median property. Example:

 

 

Weaknesses:

Instructions are missing in some templates. Multiple utility upload spreadsheet templates can be generated from various locations within Portfolio Manager. Not all templates include instructions and some work better than others. For example, the “View as a Diagram” option on the “Meters” tab does not appear to work for all projects.

Sharing properties with new contacts is still tricky. The new Portfolio Manager simplifies the sharing of properties with people within your “connected contacts.” via a new “Sharing Tab” at the top of the Portfolio Manager home page. However, sharing properties with contacts outside of your “connected contacts” requires a search for the “Add Contact” or “Add Organization” page, a contact request to be sent, and the request to be accepted.

A simple solution for this minor dilemma would be to place “Add Contact” and “Add Organization” options on the “Sharing Tab” page.

We’ve only highlighted several important changes in the Portfolio Manager tool. For detailed information about what’s new, please visit The New ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager website.

Ryan Carter is a Senior Sustainability Analyst, LEED® AP BD+C with Paladino and Company.

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