Evaluation of U.S. Building Energy Benchmarking and Transparency Programs: Attributes, Impacts, and Best Practices
In the last decade, a new policy area has emerged to boost energy efficiency in buildings that focuses on the simple action of measuring energy use as compared to buildings of similar type and size, and making that data publicly available. These efforts, referred to as benchmarking and transparency (B&T) policies, seek to unlock new energy efficiency opportunities in the country’s existing buildings by promoting data-driven decision-making and creating stronger market signals. This report focuses on the 24 state and local jurisdictions that (as of December 31, 2016) require owners of privately owned commercial buildings, multifamily buildings, or both to comply with a B&T policy. The report provides a summary of U.S. B&T policy design and implementation characteristics, reports results and impacts for jurisdictions with B&T policies, and discusses opportunities for increasing the efficacy of B&T policies, as well as suggested areas for further research. Among the findings, all but one of the B&T policy evaluation studies reviewed indicate some reduction (from 1.6% to 14%) in energy use, energy costs, or energy intensity over the two- to four-year period of the analyses. More specifically, most of the studies reviewed indicate 3% to 8% reductions in gross energy consumption or energy use intensity over a two- to four-year period of B&T policy implementation. Two additional evaluation studies indicate that there is a causal relationship between B&T policies and energy savings or energy cost savings. These documented impacts should be reviewed with some caution. While consistently showing energy savings benefits associated with B&T policies, these savings estimates should be considered preliminary because of the limited period of analyses and inconsistencies in analysis methods for the various studies. A nationally standardized method for data collection, reporting, and evaluation of B&T policies—developed with an advisory group of state and local jurisdictions, energy efficiency and evaluation experts, building owner and real estate associations, and other stakeholders—could improve the consistency and quality of B&T impact studies, providing policymakers and others with a more complete understanding of the present and future impacts of these policies.