Study Ranks Cities’ Energy Efficiency Policies

Energy efficiency in large cities is the most effective way save resources, protect the health of the community, and catalyze the local economy. This week, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released their 2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard that takes the 51 largest US metropolitan statistical area (MSA) populations and grades them in the five categories below.

•Local government operations
•Community-wide initiatives
•Buildings policies
•Energy and water utilities
•Transportation policies

The intricate scoring system placed Boston in the top spot with 82 out of the possible 100 points. Following after Boston was New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Austin, and Denver to round out the top 10. The four Florida cities on the list, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, all scored in the bottom 50% with Orlando scoring the best at 33.5 points.

Compiling this information in one place with yearly reporting is the ideal way to drive change. The old saying that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure first” holds true. This is the second year this report has been released and cities averaged an increase in their scores by 2 points. Energy efficiency is an important tool for both business and home to save money, save energy, and protect the environment. Florida cities have their work cut out for them and this is an exciting time to be a driving force in the energy efficiency industry.

Energy Efficiency Solutions with ENERGY STAR Data Trends

Hill York Energy Solutions utilizes data and systems from the US Department of Energy called, ENERGY STAR. The ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool allows Hill York to benchmark buildings in our portfolio and compare energy use to similar buildings around the country.

That being said, ENERGY STAR has a plethora of information that is available to anyone and everyone who wants to learn about energy efficiency for work or for home.
Data Trends, visualizations compiled from all of the information in Portfolio Manager to track trends and report findings, was recently released by ENERGY STAR. The Data Trends took the comprehensive data from all building types and focused on reporting upon the specific characteristics about similar buildings.

Each two page PDF takes the information for the sector and builds a report that gives helpful visual data as well as easy-to-read paragraphs explaining the data and highlighting important or interesting facts. For example, the illustration above depicts the states that have benchmarked offices in the Unites States with the darkest blue being the most. It also explains a typical operating profile for a building so that anyone can explain why some offices are more efficient than others.

The use of big data like this to improve the efficiency of commercial buildings cannot be overstated. With so much data at its fingertips, ENERGY STAR has visualized information for thousands of buildings across the country and made it easy to access so that all property owners can benefit. The first step to managing a building and its energy use is to first measure it, create a benchmark, and set goals for reduction; ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is the perfect tool to accomplish this. Check out the different sectors that these Data Trends were created for and read the ones for the sector you are interested in here.

Where Does Your Electricity Come From?

Historically, there has been a perception that electric bills were set in stone and that you would just pay the bill without giving it a second thought. This disconnect and inability to manage the largest controllable operating expense of a company stems from a lack of education on where and how our energy is produced.

Florida’s electric generation is unique in that the state’s population is 6.2% of the US, they consume 5.97% of the electricity, and emit 4.23% of the total carbon dioxide emissions. So as a population, the people of Florida consume and pollute less per capita than most states when it comes to electricity generation. In the chart below with information from the Energy Information Administration, you’ll see that 81.6% of Floridians’ electricity comes from fossil fuels (Natural gas and coal). This is common throughout the United States, although it should be noted that Florida is second largest consumer of natural gas for electricity production in the country, which burns cleaner than coal.

The process of burning those fossil fuels, transforming them to electricity, and transporting that electricity to the consumer involves a great deal of waste. In fact, for every 10 units of fossil fuels burned, only 1 unit of electricity will make it to the consumer. This fact illustrates the importance of energy efficiency because for every 1 unit that is saved by the consumer, 10 units of fossil fuels will be left unburned. Evoking Energy Solutions to conserve energy at the end user saves money for the consumer who is spending less, it saves money for the utility who does not have to build new power plants, and it saves the environment by polluting less; the ever elusive win/win/win.

Congressional Action Aims to Improve Energy Efficiency

Congress on Tuesday passed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 that will drive energy efficiency through modest but meaningful measures. The bill, signed into law by President Obama on April 30th, 2015, has been hailed by Congress as being good for the economy and good for the environment.

The bill is made up of four sections that include: better buildings, grid enabled water heaters, energy efficient government technology, and energy information for commercial buildings. With all four sections bearing significance in their own right, the last section is a simple, cost neutral solution that will lead to positive change. This section requires federally leased buildings without ENERGY STAR certifications to be benchmarked using ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and disclose its energy use report wherever practical.

The U.S. Government is the largest consumer of energy in the country and bills passed through Congress like the one above, recognize that fact and take action to change it. There is a saying that has always resonated throughout the energy management industry that you can’t manage what you don’t measure first. Here, benchmarking a building is the measure needed to better plan and manage that building now and into the future. U.S. Senator Jeane Shaheen (D-NH), a sponsor of the bill, stated that, “Energy efficiency holds enormous potential for America’s energy future and [Congress] has taken an important step toward realizing that future.”

ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program that helps businesses and individuals save money through superior energy efficiency. They serve as an objective validation for products claiming to be energy efficient and also classify buildings as energy efficient through the online benchmarking program called, Portfolio Manager. The program emphasizes testing, third party validation, and compliance screening to bolster its integrity and ensure that any building, product certified will deliver the savings promised.