Issue

About Whole-Building Energy Consumption Data

Although it seems logical that the owner or manager of a commercial building would know how much energy it uses, this is often not the case. Many building owners cannot access all the energy meters within their building without the consent of individual tenants, preventing them from measuring and tracking the building’s total energy consumption (a process known as benchmarking), and limiting their ability to evaluate energy efficiency opportunities and make energy improvements that save energy and money. This little-known fact outside the building industry is a major barrier to energy efficiency in commercial buildings. It is the result of several factors, including:

1. Separately metered tenants

Building owners typically do not have access to consumption data for spaces where a tenant is separately metered and pays utility bills directly. Manually collecting this data can be difficult and time intensive for building owners with many separately metered tenants. Many large commercial buildings have 20 or more tenants, while multifamily residential buildings routinely have hundreds of separately metered units. In some cases, tenants may simply refuse to share consumption data.

2. Limited support from utility companies

Utilities are well-positioned to support building owners in collecting consumption data given that they have access to all the energy meters in a building. However, many utilities are uninformed about the data access issue, while others have cited technical or legal challenges to providing this type of service.

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Convenient access to whole-building consumption data will empower more building owners and managers to:

  • Identify cost-effective investments in energy efficiency that create jobs, reduce energy consumption and increase property values
  • Participate in voluntary green building recognition programs such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program
  • Achieve energy reduction targets outlined in the President’s Better Buildings Challenge
  • Comply with energy benchmarking regulations in states and cities
  • Comply with energy efficiency leasing guidelines for federal agencies
  • Lower operating expenses and reduce utility bills for businesses

Leading utilities are helping commercial building owners and managers access the energy consumption data they need to benchmark their buildings and achieve these benefits. Utilities such as ComEd, ConEd, Avista, Seattle City Light, Austin Energy, Puget Sound Energy and Pacific Gas & Electric are piloting innovative policies and web tools to enable data access. The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) supports these types of solutions.