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Managing energy usage with online tools

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Energy Star Portfolio Manager is a free tool that allows building managers to benchmark their property’s energy consumption. Created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resources Canada has adapted Energy Star to reflect homegrown properties. The updated tool now features Canada-specific data, including weather information, postal codes and the metric system.

Here, Phil Jago of Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency explains how to use this resource and the types of properties that benefit from it.

How does the Energy Star Portfolio Manager work?

Energy Star Portfolio Manager is a free online tool that organizations can use to measure and track energy and water consumption, as well as greenhouse gas emissions for their buildings.

Users of the tool create an account and then input the physical characteristics of their building including building type, floor space, occupancy, energy and water consumption and other pertinent features. The Energy Star Portfolio Manager takes the information entered by the user to calculate energy performance metrics, such as the Energy Star 1-100 Score and weather adjusted energy use intensity.

These energy performance metrics allow the user to compare one building against itself over time, compare one building against a national sample of similar buildings, and compare all of the user’s buildings of a similar type to each other.

What is the tool’s target market?

In Canada, Energy Star Portfolio Manager is targeted to the commercial and institutional buildings sector, including schools, hospitals, office buildings and retail establishments. This sector includes approximately 480,000 buildings and consumes about 12 per cent of the energy used in Canada, worth about $24 billion on an annual basis.

What are the benefits of using the tool?

By using the free tool, building owners and managers can track their energy performance and determine whether their overall performance is improving or getting worse. As well, the tool’s energy rating or energy performance score feature provides an external reference that helps building managers assess at a glance how efficiently a building uses energy relative to similar building types.

Users can produce custom reports, charts and graphs allowing them to analyze data, manage energy use, develop energy-efficiency designs, programs and policies, and improve building performance. Ultimately, you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and what gets measured gets done.

What differentiates Energy Star from other energy and water consumption tools?

One of the biggest distinguishing factors for Energy Star Portfolio Manager is its use of a statistically valid energy reference database that was developed by Statistics Canada and includes information on more than 6,000 buildings across Canada.

As well, it is simple to use, is available in both official languages, does not require any dedicated software and is available from any location with internet access through a web browser. The tool also has the capability to compliment other existing tracking tools through its data exchange feature.

Phil Jago is the director of buildings for Natural Resource Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency. The office can be reached at 1-877-360-5500 or info.services@nrcan.gc.ca.  

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