Across the NEEP region, eight states, at least eight municipalities, and one county have passed a benchmarking ordinance. The newest state to join this illustrious group holds down the southern border of the NEEP region: West Virginia!
What is Benchmarking?
The existing building stock accounts for 40 percent of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy usage. And targeting this sector’s energy usage is crucial to reaching state climate goals. More and more cities and states are turning to building energy rating programs such as residential labeling, commercial benchmarking, and building performance standards to achieve this. Benchmarking is the process of measuring and analyzing the actual energy consumption of a building and typically focuses on commercial, industrial, or large multifamily buildings.
The age-old adage “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” applies to energy policy. Benchmarking has many uses for stakeholders at many different levels. Policymakers can look holistically at their building stock to set baselines and targets for future policy goals or efficiency programs. Building owners can use the data to pinpoint inefficiencies and opportunities to save energy and money. When integrated with real estate markets, benchmarking allows for more transparent transactions – the data provides buyers with critical information about a building’s true operating costs and can encourage sellers to invest in energy efficiency to increase the value of their property. For more information on benchmarking, visit NEEP’s .
Establishing an energy rating policy has many benefits, but it is not always easy to convince others to follow – no one wants more responsibilities. A useful trick is for a state or community to “lead-by-example” and begin following new regulations before they are mandated. This greases the wheels by increasing levels of awareness, preparing the energy efficiency market, and getting systems and protocols in place to handle wider audiences. Down the line, various building groups, often categorized by square footage, can be included in the policy. For more information on the impacts and location of energy rating policies, check out our infographic.
West Virginia’s Benchmarking Policy HB2667
In West Virginia, has been flying through the legislature. It was introduced on February 23, and 46 days later the bill passed both chambers and went to the Governor’s office for signature. This legislation creates an energy efficiency cost saving program for state-owned buildings that would require owners to annually benchmark their energy usage and report savings in , an EPA benchmarking tool.
The speed at which the bill is moving is not surprising given its cost-saving nature. In an from the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Karen Lasure from the West Virginia Office of Energy (WVOE) noted that the state spends approximately $88 to $100 million dollars of taxpayer money on utilities each year for 3,300–4,000 state-owned buildings. Bill 2667 aims to reduce energy usage 25 percent compared to 2018 levels by the year 2030. Lasure states that “benchmarking, utility auditing, and other low-cost and no-cost measures can save a combined 15 percent to 28 percent on those costs.” According to an , benchmarking has been shown to decrease energy usage by about 2.5 percent annually. West Virginia could easily meet the 25 percent target over the next nine years by simply reporting energy usage and revealing hidden inefficiencies.
While the bill is sailing through Congress this year, it is actually the result of many years of work. In 2018, WVOE, funded by a competitive U.S. Department of Energy State Energy Program grant, initiated a benchmarking project to report the energy usage of all K-12 schools in the state. The project is now . Last year, the West Virginia state legislature passed a to analyze how state agencies can better manage their utility usage to bring costs down. These projects played a large role in the success of HB2667 and demonstrated what the possibilities of energy efficiency are.
What Comes Next?
A building performance standard (BPS) is a type of policy that requires building owners to go one step beyond simply measuring and reporting (benchmarking) to actively reduce energy usage or GHG emissions. In its simplest form, a BPS sets energy or emissions reduction limits that buildings must achieve within a given time frame or risk being penalized. The penalties are set such that it is cheaper to comply than to be penalized. Tokyo, Japan was the first city to use this technique. Washington D.C. and New York City are other early adopters. In the NEEP region, there are at least four other municipalities and one county actively working on BPS legislation, with numerous others considering it. BPS can also be organized at the state level.
Building Energy Analysis Manager
NEEP has partnered with ClearlyEnergy, using funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, to develop the , a tool capable of removing time and resource barriers to adopting benchmarking or building performance standards. BEAM aggregates benchmarking data and is capable of performing automatic compliance tracking based on a specific jurisdiction benchmarking or building performance standard policy. It also incorporates a small customer relationship manager (CRM) component, which allows jurisdictions to easily communicate with various groups of building owners (for example owners of buildings who are out of compliance with the BPS).
It is exciting to see benchmarking and building performance standards taking off around the region. Bill HB2667’s success in the legislature is a big win for West Virginia but it isn’t over yet. The bill now sits with the Governor who will make the ultimate decision. We’re keeping our fingers crossed!
*Coverphoto: West Virginia State House at night. Source: https://www.alec.org/article/west-virginia-state-of-the-state-governor-justice-changes-his-tune-on-tax-hikes/