Step 7. Drive Engagement and Communicate Results
To hardwire energy data management in your organization, engage key stakeholders prior to implementation and continue to communicate with them throughout the process. To ensure you receive the buy-in and support of your organization's leadership and other key staff, consider taking the following actions:
- Develop stakeholder engagement strategies to drive and maintain engagement and collaboration among key stakeholders across various levels of your organization
- Tailor your communication strategies to specific stakeholder groups—within and outside your organization—recognizing and addressing each group's diverse goals, drivers, and needs for information.
Consider developing strategies to drive and maintain engagement and collaboration among key stakeholders across various levels of your organization. Not all of your stakeholders will be interested in the same type of information, so develop strategies that resonate with each group you need to engage. Customized engagement can produce the greatest impact by providing information that is most likely to motivate action.
It is important to regularly engage key stakeholders and keep them informed about the status and progress of the energy data management program. Key internal stakeholders include those at the executive levels, as well as others throughout the organizational structure. It is also important to keep external stakeholders, such as utility vendor contacts and the general public, informed. Consider engaging the following important internal and external stakeholders as part of your energy data management program (specific strategies for engaging each of these groups is provided in the section below titled "Strategies for Engaging and Communicating With Specific Stakeholder Groups"):
- Executive-level leadership typically provides policy support and strategic direction for your energy data management program
- Departmental leadership provides assistance and support when needed, especially if you keep them informed of the performance of their respective departments
- Facility managers and operations and maintenance staff provide important "on the ground" insights into the operations and performance of their facilities
- Finance and accounts payable staff set and manage your utility budget and pay your utility bills, so it is important to engage them early in the process because your energy data management program can inform the budget process and has the potential to streamline the bill payment process
- General staff are more likely to become champions in their respective departments if they are kept aware of your organization's energy initiatives and how it supports their daily work
- Utility contacts are an important external stakeholder since they supply your energy data and often run incentive programs that can support your energy efficiency projects or goals
- General public want to know how your organization is managing their taxpayer dollars and will likely be interested in your organization's performance relative to its goals.
Establishing an energy data management policy and providing consistent communication can signal to your stakeholders that your energy data management program is a priority for your organization. Policies also help create accountability and encourage or require participation across your organization. When policies are combined with measurable targets that are consistently communicated and showcase progress, along with recognizing individuals and organizations, goals are met. This can further cement the importance of an energy data management program.
Create a Policy Framework
Define the goals and processes for energy data management in a formal policy statement, which clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved. Policies that most effectively leverage energy data management include benchmarking requirements and energy-reduction goals.
Examples: Leading-By-Example Benchmarking Policies
Learn about some state and local governments who are leading by example by enacting policies that require benchmarking of publicly owned buildings and other energy and water-using infrastructure.Learn More
Set a Concrete and Measurable Target
Consider setting concrete and measurable energy savings goals. By setting a target, it signals your organization's commitment to achieving it within a chosen timeframe. Goal-setting is a powerful strategy for helping your organization focus its efforts, and it becomes a reference point for measuring progress and motivating stakeholders.
Resource: Set an Energy Savings Goal Through the Better Buildings® Challenge
More than 80 public-sector organizations have voluntarily joined the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Better Buildings Challenge and set a goal to reduce their portfolio-wide energy use intensity by 20% over 10 years.
Frame the Program in Terms of Benefits
Collecting and utilizing energy data to inform decision making and evaluate the effectiveness of energy projects on a consistent basis may be new tasks for your organization. As a result, you may encounter resistance from staff that may see the activity as an added burden to their already busy schedules.
To encourage staff cooperation, formulate a compelling value proposition statement that demonstrates the benefits. Attractive benefits might include a lighter workload for staff once automated data access solutions are implemented and integrated with existing data systems. In addition, departments can receive more robust and detailed data that improves their ability to optimize the performance of their energy-using assets that may reduce their energy budget and free-up funding for other priority activities. See Step 1 "Define the Value Proposition" to learn more.
Consider Using a Neutral Third Party
Another strategy to consider if you encounter resistance from key stakeholders within your organization is to employ a neutral third party as a mediator between you and your key stakeholders. The third party may be an external organization that you are partnering with on the program that is providing technical assistance or training. Alternatively, consider leveraging other departments or staff members in your organization as a third party that may be better positioned to present the initiative from the perspective of your key stakeholders because they work in the same functional area within your organization.
Join Energy Challenges or Initiatives
Join a regional and/or national energy initiative to create engagement among your stakeholders and generate buy-in across your organization. Often these initiatives provide resources that can help you succeed and recognize your progress toward your goals.
Resource: Join the Better Buildings Challenge
Join the more than 80 public-sector organizations that have voluntarily joined the DOE Better Buildings Challenge and receive technical assistance to identify and overcome barriers to managing energy data and achieve national recognition for your leadership.
Review these Frequently Asked Questions about the Better Buildings Challenge and the different ways partners can be involved to learn more.
Provide Formal Recognition, Bonuses, and Awards
You can also motivate action by demonstrating appreciation for your staff's contributions when they get involved in the program and/or achieve specific milestones. Consider recognizing staff on your organization's website, through its newsletter, or, more formally, through awards, annual performance reviews, and prizes.
To maintain and foster engagement with stakeholders, form a working group as a forum for sharing ideas. Working groups remind stakeholders from different departments that they share common goals and emphasize the importance of your data management program.
Typically, sustainability or energy managers (or those directly responsible for achieving energy goals) can lead the working group in your organization. Your working group may focus on new initiatives within your program or be the mechanism to work directly with staff who are key to reducing energy use in your facilities. You can also use working groups as an opportunity to review cost and consumption data, investigate usage anomalies and/or data errors, and identify potential energy savings projects.
Keys to an Effective Working Group
- Include designated representatives from each agency or department who are in a leadership role and have knowledge of the unique assets under their purview and the challenges they face
- Set clear goals so participants understand what they are trying to accomplish
- Track progress toward goals and milestones at each meeting to keep participants engaged
- Leverage participants' knowledge to determine the root causes of issues and work on identifying potential solutions
- Provide quarterly energy performance reports to hold participants accountable and motivate each agency to make improvements every quarter.
To keep stakeholders engaged, give them access to relevant data, ideally through a uniform data platform that provides data in a digestible and targeted format that allows them to take action.
Provide Actionable Information to Appropriate Stakeholders
It is important to first identify which stakeholders have the authority to take action based on the data provided. When a problem is clearly identified and defined in clear and concise terms, it facilitates action and decision-making. To determine what constitutes actionable information for each stakeholder group, become familiar with each stakeholder's goals and the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving them.
Consider keeping your reports short by only providing the information and metrics directly relevant to the topic and your specific stakeholder group. To improve the effectiveness of the reports, seek feedback and ideas from your stakeholders on the format and information that are most useful to them. Several iterations of a report may be necessary to arrive at an approach that resonates with each stakeholder group and drives them to action. For more information, see Communicate Progress and Results.
Create a Uniform Data Platform
A uniform data platform can facilitate access to information by multiple stakeholders, which can lead to improved data reporting and utilization. Some states—including Massachusetts, Iowa, Colorado, Maryland, and Minnesota—provide data tracking and management tools for free or at reduced rates to state agencies, and in some cases to municipalities. These tools serve as a uniform data platform and allow users to fulfill their reporting requirements. To learn more, see Step 5 "Leverage Data Management Tools."
When data from multiple departments or organizations are housed in a single tool, the database becomes more "data-rich." This increases its usefulness in identifying benchmarks and trends for your organization; however, offering a tool is not a solution in and of itself. As some organizations have found, additional action is necessary to promote use of the tool.
State Spotlight: North Carolina
Incentivizing Data Sharing in North Carolina
North Carolina established the Utilities Savings Initiative (USI) to assist North Carolina governmental units in managing the use and cost of energy, water, and other utilities in their facilities. Through the USI Program, North Carolina provides technical assistance to state agencies, local governments, institutions of higher education, and K-12 schools in the state, but with the condition that they input data for their facilities in ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager. From 2002 through 2012, North Carolina invested approximately $12 million in state appropriated funds to support the operation of the program and leveraged $160 million in performance contracts through private bank financing that produced nearly $553 million in avoided utility costs.Learn More
Provide Broad Access to the Data
Consider providing broad and immediate access to your organization's energy data. Doing so can help keep your stakeholders engaged because they can access the energy performance metrics at their convenience rather than waiting on provided reports. If it is not possible for you to provide global access to data, regularly communicate cost and consumption information to your asset managers. It can help increase participation in your organization's energy management program. Dallas, Texas, distributes copies of utility bills to individual departments to raise awareness of how their actions impact citywide energy consumption.
In addition, if you integrate an energy data management platform with other business functions, such as budgeting and accounts payable, more individuals can utilize it and derive value from it. To learn more, see Step 5 "Leverage Data Management Tools."
By committing to transparency, both internally and publicly, your organization can demonstrate its commitment to accountability and the importance of the energy data management program.
Examples: Leading by Example Through Public Disclosure of Energy Use
The District of Columbia displayed near real-time facility-level energy performance and cost data on a public-facing website.
New York requires an annual progress report on progress toward the energy efficiency improvement goal mandated by Executive Order 88. The report includes facility-level energy consumption data for state entities.
To ensure the success of your energy data management program, engage and regularly communicate with key internal and external stakeholders. Recognize and address each group's diverse goals, drivers, and needs for information, so you can tailor your communication strategies to specific stakeholder groups—within and outside your organization. Keep in mind that most engagement strategies are refined over time as you receive stakeholder feedback. See Figure 7-1 below.
Your executive-level leadership has a vested interest in mitigating rising energy costs and inefficient operations. Your leadership will typically provide policy support and strategic direction for your energy data management program. Regularly apprising leadership of progress and any challenges that arise allows them to step in and lend support when necessary.
Example: Leveraging Executive Leadership to Advance Energy Data Management
Knoxville, Tennessee, leveraged the authority of the mayor and deputy mayor to convene a meeting with officials from the city's public utilities to emphasize the need for streamlined access to utility data. The meeting, which highlighted the benefits of robust utility data collection and tracking, resulted in improved cooperation from the utility to data requests issued by the city.
One strategy to consider for engaging your leadership is leveraging local and national organizations that provide public recognition and external validation of your energy performance. For example, DOE regularly organizes media events and highlights the achievements of Better Buildings Challenge partners. EPA recognizes the top ENERGY STAR cities annually and holds an annual recognition event for its ENERGY STAR Award winners. On a regional level, many public, private, and nonprofit organizations issue energy awards that can help spread the word about the energy reduction efforts made possible by the support of your leadership and help create and sustain leadership buy-in in your organization. For example, the Clean Energy States Alliance's State Leadership in Clean Energy Awards or the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance's Inspiring Efficiency Awards issue annual awards recognizing energy leadership.
Communications and Reporting
When your leadership and/or legislative action drives your energy reduction goals, it is essential to provide regular status reports that include a status review of budgeting, compliance, and progress toward goals. Use a short and concise format in your reports to executive-level leadership. See Table 7-1 below for examples of data metrics and performance indicators to consider using with your executive leadership.
Also, consider utilizing communications and media relations groups that can create media announcements highlighting your successes.
|Data Metrics and Performance Indicators
|Status (this is where we are today…)
|Progress toward energy and/or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings goals by department and overall progress
|Percentage overall improvement and improvement by energy/emissions metric (BTUs, kWhs, tons, and so on) relative to baseline year
|Largest energy users and/or GHG emitters (i.e., agencies or end-use sectors)
|Dollar value ($) and energy/emissions metric (BTUs, kWhs, tons, and so on)
|Avoided costs, energy consumption, and/or GHG emissions
|Dollar value ($) and/or energy/emissions metric (BTUs, kWhs, tons) monthly, annual, cumulative avoidance
|This is our strategy to reach our goal…
|Energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and associated cost, energy, and/or GHG emissions savings
|Number and dollar value ($) of projects and dollars ($) and energy/emissions (BTUs, kWhs, tons, and so on) savings
|Power purchase agreements and total value with projected cost and/or GHG emissions savings
|Number, dollar value ($), length of agreements, and savings over projected energy costs ($) and/or emissions (tons)
|To put things in perspective…
|Total energy consumption and/or GHG emissions trends over time
|Percent change and change by energy/emissions metric (BTUs, kWhs, tons, and so on)
|Ongoing and cumulative yearly savings from energy conservation measures
|Dollar value ($) and energy/emissions metric (BTUs, kWhs, tons, and so on)
|Year-to-date energy and cost savings, projects completed, GHG emissions avoided
|Dollar value ($) and energy/emissions metric (BTUs, kWhs, tons, and so on)
State Spotlight: Delaware
Report to the Cabinet Committee on Energy
Delaware issued Executive Order 18 requiring that the state achieve an overall collective reduction in energy consumption of at least 10% by 2011, 20% by 2013, and 30% by 2015, from a 2008 baseline. As of 2018, Delaware achieved a 22% cumulative energy reduction compared to a 2008 baseline year. In implementing the executive order, the sustainability manager developed a standardized quarterly energy report format that included key information of interest to the state's leadership that enabled quick review to gauge progress.Learn More
Department-level directors are responsible for the energy using assets across your organization, so it is important that they receive regular updates on the energy performance of their departments to lend support in energy data management efforts when needed.
Consider establishing a working group as an effective way to engage department-level directors.
Examples: Utilizing Working Groups to Further Energy Savings Goals
In California, the interagency oversight group of department executives meets quarterly to discuss data collection and progress towards energy conservation goals. Shortcomings identified during the meetings are quickly addressed due to the importance of meeting the governor's energy management initiatives goals.
Minnesota held monthly meetings with facility and operational managers to address progress toward energy savings goals and data tracking by department. These meetings encouraged those lagging behind to improve their data tracking and energy conservation efforts.
Will County, Illinois, held a quarterly Green Team meeting to share usage information with key decision makers and critical stakeholders. These working group meetings helped the key stakeholders understand their contribution to cost and energy savings. As a result, the county observed that when staff were aware of energy consumption trends, they were more likely to take action to reduce energy use in facilities.
Energy data is often aggregated at the department level, so you can compare each department's performance relative to others. To motivate action through friendly competition, inform department heads of their performance compared to their peers. You can also consider launching an internal challenge or executive-sponsored competition with awards to motivate participation.
State Spotlight: Maryland
16-Agency Energy Competition
Maryland developed and launched a competition as one of its key strategies to mobilize the largest energy-consuming state agencies to reduce their energy use. The 16-Agency Energy Competition incorporated public recognition and technical assistance to keep agencies motivated toward the state's energy reduction goal of 15% by 2015 from a 2008 baseline. The competition helped reduce energy consumption by nearly 20% (more than 500 trillion Btus) by the end of 2013 from a 2008 baseline. Maryland exceeded its savings goal ahead of the 2015 target date, in large part by using competition and recognition as incentives.Learn More
Another effective strategy to engage departmental leadership is with the promise of grants or in-kind assistance. Some state and local governments offer funding and technical assistance to departments who provide data from their facilities.
Communications and Reporting
Department-level stakeholders require communication on a monthly or quarterly basis. The stakeholder group accountable for energy performance requires more detailed information than leadership to fulfill responsibilities of energy management, budgeting, compliance, and monitoring of goals.
Resource: Sample Report to Agency Director
In Delaware, reports to agency directors include facility-level energy performance data, current energy use intensity information on individual buildings relative to previous performance, and energy savings through energy performance contracts. These data are used in capital budget planning and operations management and are discussed in regular working group meetings.Download Sample Report
Facility Managers and Operations Staff
Given their direct impact on facility-level energy performance, it is essential to engage facility managers, engineers, operators, and maintenance staff. Ultimately, they are responsible for implementing and maintaining energy efficiency measures.
It is important to develop strong, collegial working relationships with staff who manage the operations of energy-using assets. If energy tracking and payment is centralized, facility and maintenance staff may not naturally be involved in energy data management, and, therefore, may not see the link between operations and energy use and costs. As a result, consider that you may need to communicate the value of your energy data management program to these staff and be prepared to address any of their issues and concerns.
In-Person Meetings and Working Groups
Meeting staff face-to-face or in working groups provides a forum to discuss organizational goals, updates relevant to the program, and accountability. Facility managers have vital technical expertise and insights on how best to improve operations of the buildings and facilities they manage.
Local Government Spotlight: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Driving Participation and Action Through the Energy Reduction Team
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, created the Energy Reduction Team, composed of facility managers from the Departments of Public Works, Police, Fire, Health, and Port of Milwaukee, that met quarterly to review the city's energy use and progress on sustainability goals. Through these meetings, the city identified a number of opportunities for improvements, including low-cost interventions with significant impacts on reducing energy use. In one case, the team identified simple changes to the ventilation protocol in a parking garage, cutting the facility's electricity use by nearly 50% from 2011 to 2012.Learn More
Education and Training
Work closely with facility staff to help identify those individuals who have established expertise in energy management and opportunities for additional training.
Example: Educating Facility Staff in Energy Management
Hennepin County, Minnesota, recognizes the value of educating facility staff in energy management best practices. Through a variety of energy and water efficiency projects, building re-commissioning, and behavioral programs, the county achieved a 13% cumulative reduction in energy consumption from 2008 to 2013. To generate additional energy savings, it is providing Building Operator Certification program training to its staff.
Internal and public recognition of individuals who support energy data management initiatives can go a long way toward strengthening relationships with facility staff and ensuring the success of your energy data management program. It is also important to demonstrate to leadership the positive contributions of staff to the energy management program.
Example: Recognizing Staff for Contributions to Energy Data Management Program
San Francisco requires each city department to track and report their greenhouse gas emissions in annual Departmental Climate Action Plans. The annual plans are made possible by the work of department climate liaisons—people who volunteered or were designated the task of producing annual climate strategies for each city department. These individuals are profiled on the city website for their industrious work.
Communications and Reporting
To better prioritize the day-to-day operations of facilities, your asset managers need access to facility-level cost and consumption trends. They may also need facility-level data listed by resource type, so they can assess total monthly consumption and compare it relative to a baseline, prior performance, and/or usage goals. It is particularly important when energy upgrades are implemented because usage may shift among fuel types.
Consider investing resources to make facility-level energy and cost data accessible and available to your staff. This allows your staff to:
- Monitor performance at their convenience using the tool's dashboard
- Analyze data using standard or custom algorithms
- Obtain additional data if a problem is suspected.
In practice, database usage may vary among staff. Because of time constraints, your facility managers and operations staff may not take full advantage of an online database even if it is available. In these cases, communicate via monthly reports with your facility managers and operations staff on their building energy performance relative to a baseline and target performance.
Standardized reports that list facilities by their monthly energy use (kBtu) can help operations staff quickly identify and prioritize facilities requiring their attention. It shows them whether a facility is operating above, below, or at an expected level. It is also important to keep your reports simple and in a consistent format, so your facility managers can review them expeditiously.
Regular, person-to-person communications with facility staff can keep them well informed, empowered, and engaged in your organization's energy-reduction efforts.
|Data Metrics and Performance Indicators
|Big Picture Results (Monthly)
|Total energy use for assets under each department's purview
|Percent change from energy and cost baseline
|Btus and dollar value ($)
|Median energy use intensity (EUI)
|Total site and source energy use for all facilities
|Total site electricity use
|Total site natural gas use
|Therms or Cubic Feet
|Total fuel use
|Gallons, Pounds, and so on
|Facility-Level Information (Monthly)
|Facility or asset name/identifier
|Change in energy use from baseline with increases in use shown in red, buildings sorted from highest positive change relative to baseline to highest negative change relative to baseline
|% change in Btus
|Library, Streetlight, and so on
|Date data was last modified
|Site and source EUI
|Annual site usage
|Percent of facility's energy usage and cost relative to the whole portfolio
|% of Btus and $
|Less Frequently (Biannually or Annually)
|Progress toward energy and/or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings goals by department, commodity, and overall represented as a percentage improvement and improvement by energy/emissions metric relative to baseline year
|% of Btus, kWhs, Tons, and so on
|Total energy consumption and/or GHG emissions over time represented as a percentage change and change by energy/emissions metric
|% of Btus, kWhs, Tons, and so on
|Year-to-date energy and cost savings and/or GHG emissions reductions
|Dollar value ($) and Btus, kWhs, Tons, and so on
|Ongoing and cumulative yearly cost and energy savings and/or GHG emissions reductions from energy conservation measures
|Dollar value ($) and Btus, kWhs, Tons, and so on
|Avoided costs, energy consumption, GHG emissionsa can be monthly, annual, and/or cumulative avoidance
|Dollar value ($) and Btus, kWhs, Tons, and so on
|a) Avoided costs are different from cost savings in that actions that prevent future costs can be incorporated into the calculation of avoided costs as long as it is reasonably certain that the cost would have appeared without those actions. For example, preventative maintenance on equipment can be thought of as the practice of avoiding costs, or cost avoidance. A "cost savings" scenario looks at reducing spending that is already taking place, while in an "avoided cost" scenario, the cost increase has not yet occurred. In an avoided cost scenario, you have to demonstrate that the increase will occur without the proposed action.
See Step 5 "Leverage Data Management Tools" for activities that require facility managers and operations staff (e.g., energy analyst, energy engineer, and so on ) to access more granular data at a higher frequency in order to optimize building performance in real time.
Local Government Spotlight: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Developed "Avoided Energy Usage Report" to Communicate With City Departments
The Energy Manager for Minneapolis, Minnesota, employed energy-cost and energy-use avoidance as metrics for communicating energy performance with the city's departments. Quarterly reports for each city department list data for each facility, providing departments with the necessary feedback on performance over time. In 2010, a city office building was re-lamped and carbon dioxide monitors were added to the air handling equipment to increase the efficiency of steam boilers. The retrofits cost the city $78,000, but by using the cost-avoidance calculator, the energy manager demonstrated that the city avoided $98,000 in steam and electricity costs the following year—a net savings of $20,000.Learn More
Resource: Sample Reports to a Maintenance SupervisorDownload Sample Report
Finance and Accounts Payable Directors and Staff
The finance department responsible for energy budgeting and planning can become your ally in the energy data management program. Working collaboratively, finance can leverage your energy data to support the management of energy and water budgets for the organization. Accounts payable departments can also benefit from your energy data management program by utilizing it to streamline approaches to bill processing, especially when they are incurring additional costs (e.g., late fees).
Collaboration with finance can lead to more efficient operations and result in significant time savings for both of your departments. For a detailed example, read Virginia Beach, Virginia: Automating Utility-Bill Invoicing to Improve Energy Management and City Operations.
General Staff and the Public
Transparency, both internally and publicly, drives awareness and engagement in the energy data management process. It also allows individuals to learn about your organization's progress toward goals and creates a sense of shared responsibility in meeting those goals. When communicating data to a broader audience, the data must be translated into plain language that enables staff and the public to understand more esoteric concepts.
Example: Transparently Publishing Energy Performance Data on a Public Website
The District of Columbia stimulated engagement from building operators, occupants, and residents in the District by publishing energy data on a public website and presenting that data in plain language with brief summaries and key takeaways to highlight important sections. In addition, the public dashboard was a way to communicate to staff and the public how the District's Department of General Services utilized energy data to effectively track and manage the performance of the District's building portfolio to save money and taxpayer resources.
It is also important to establish a strong relationship and regular communication with your utilities. This can keep you informed of their resources that you can leverage to improve data access and streamline the energy data management process. Consider including utility representatives in your energy data management program from the beginning by involving your utility representatives in working groups. This is one strategy for ensuring utilities understand and meet your needs as a customer.
Municipally or publicly owned utilities present opportunities for collaboration between the municipal governments and power suppliers. Some cities have successfully leveraged their leadership and utility resources to assist them in the energy data tracking program. Cleveland, Ohio, uses utility staff to assist in data entry. To learn more, see Cleveland, Ohio: Leveraging Resources across City Departments to Establish a Streamlined Data Access Solution.
Both Knoxville, Tennessee, and Columbia, Missouri, established consolidated billing with the municipal utility to streamline data transfer. To learn more, see Knoxville, Tennessee: Collaboration with Municipal Utility to Streamline Access to Energy and Water Use Data.
Resource: Better Buildings Energy Data Accelerator
Through the DOE Better Buildings Energy Data Accelerator local governments joined forces with their local utilities to make it easier for building owners to get access to whole-building energy usage data to benchmark building energy performance. Partners convened local stakeholders to overcome key technical barriers to access energy data, upgrade energy data systems, and design and pilot systems in their areas. As a result of best practices developed by the Energy Data Accelerator, 18 utilities serving more than 2.6 million commercial customers nationwide committed to provide whole-building energy data access to building owners by 2017. To learn more about the best practices that enabled cities, utilities, and other stakeholders to overcome whole-building data access barriers, check out the Energy Data Access: Blueprint for Action Toolkit.
Sometimes it is more effective to communicate energy data graphically because of the number of variables and dimensions used to describe it. Because energy metrics such as kW, kWh, Btu, and others are often difficult to put into perspective, benchmarks are used as a frame of reference. Energy use is also easier to grasp when shown as a trend, making it easier for you and your stakeholders to decide if an issue warrants attention. A trend line that reflects increasing or decreasing usage typically stimulates interest, whereas a trend revealing a steady state is the least likely scenario to motivate action.
Building energy benchmarking is the process of comparing the energy performance of a building relative to a baseline. This reference baseline can be an internal metric, such as energy performance from the previous year (i.e., longitudinal benchmarking), or external, such as the energy performance of a building compared to similar buildings (i.e., cross-sectional benchmarking).
These comparisons help to characterize energy performance and identify buildings performing outside a normal range. You can use this information to identify the root causes of higher energy consumption and design energy management strategies for underperforming buildings.
If you benchmark before and after making improvements, you can verify whether the improvements resulted in the expected cost savings. In this way, you can use benchmarking as a proactive approach toward making continuous improvements. To learn more, check out Building Energy Use Benchmarking on the State and Local Solution Center.
There are two approaches to benchmarking:
- Longitudinal benchmarking: Comparing the energy performance of your building or group of your buildings over time
- Cross-sectional benchmarking: Comparing the energy performance of your building or group of your buildings to that of similar buildings. In the second approach, facilities can use "external benchmarks" that compare a facility to a national database of similar facilities, such as EPA's ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and DOE's Building Performance Database, or to "internal benchmarks" represented by your portfolio of similar buildings (e.g., all fire stations in your portfolio).
External Cross-Sectional Benchmarking
For 21 common building types, ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager provides a score for each building on a scale from 1–100 so you can assess the energy performance of your property relative to similar buildings nationwide. Buildings that receive an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or higher perform among the top 25% of similar buildings nationwide and are eligible for ENERGY STAR certification.
You can also compare your building energy performance to the buildings in DOE's Building Performance Database (BPD), the largest publicly available database of building energy data, with over one million records, and/or the Energy Information Administration Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) data. CBECS can be used to obtain energy use intensity (EUI) information for a variety of building types. It is based on a national survey of the U.S. commercial building stock and contains energy-related building characteristics, energy consumption, and costs.
Internal Cross-Sectional Benchmarking
Internal benchmarking is an additional method to consider for comparing your energy performance and is particularly useful for public-sector organizations that own a number of facilities not eligible to receive an ENERGY STAR score. Your facilities in a localized, geographical region are compared with each other, making it more representative of construction practices and climate trends in your locality.
Because your organization's energy usage is likely to vary dramatically across building types, organizing and analyzing your data by building type can provide useful comparisons of the energy performance of your individual buildings or assets within a building type. Using this type of analysis, you can identify opportunities for energy efficiency projects by building type and focus on individual buildings that lie outside the typical range for that particular building type.
Examples: Cities Using Benchmarking
San Francisco, California, organizes city-owned facilities into at least 16 facility types, and in some cases, further subdivides facilities into subtypes (e.g., education buildings are subdivided into K-12 schools and colleges).
Seattle, Washington, compares site energy use by building type and plots the distribution of the site EUI for each building type to identify outliers (Figure 7-2). Representing data in this way demonstrates two findings: (1) it compares median EUI by building type, ranking building types from highest to lowest EUI; and (2) it shows buildings that are outliers within their own building type category.
|Useful Internal Benchmarks
|Source and Site EUI
|ENERGY STAR Score
Rankings are another tool to consider for gaining the attention of your stakeholders. Rankings can be used effectively to recognize success, or, conversely, create a sense of urgency for improvement. Rankings create a sense of competition that can be an effective motivator in your organization. Organizations have used rankings to motivate their agencies and departments by comparing the EUI of each agency and ranking them from highest to lowest. Maryland used the State Energy Database to rank agencies based on their energy use.
The use of tables, while less visually appealing than graphics, provides a way to display detailed data sets that have multiple fields. In general, put the entries at the top of the table that you want to draw your audience's attention to. For example, if the purpose of the report is to recognize your energy-efficient buildings, sort buildings from lowest to highest EUI. Conversely, if your report's purpose is to motivate additional action, sort buildings from highest to lowest EUI to draw attention to buildings representing potentially the greatest opportunity for improvement.
|Useful Ranking Categories
San Francisco, California, used a table format for public disclosure of energy use and building characteristics for all of its municipally owned facilities. Note that the table (Figure 7-3) incorporated graphics to help the reader visualize the annual site EUI and MMBtu trends. The data are grouped by facility type and listed from highest energy users to lowest. An increase in EUI is shown in red, whereas a significant decrease in EUI is shown in green. Importantly, the report provided a clear description of all information found in the table to help readers interpret it.
Graphical representation of data can be a compelling way to communicate a specific message or conclusion. While there are numerous ways to graph or chart data, a key point to remember is that you want to ensure your audience interprets the information as you intended. To facilitate this, include the key takeaway message in the title of the graph or chart.
|Principles of a Well-Designed Graph or Chart
Presenting a specific data metric relative to multiple variables helps to paint a more complete picture for your audience. For example, Cleveland, Ohio, looked at greenhouse gas emissions by source and then again by department to help decision makers not only pinpoint the commodity to target to reduce emissions, but also the municipal operations that are the largest emitters (Figure 7-4).
|Principles for Displaying Energy Use Data
Consider how you combine various data metrics into a single graph to show the bigger picture. For example, the energy manager for Poudre School District in Colorado uses a time series and column chart to show that, despite growth in the size of the school district's square footage portfolio, electric consumption has steadily decreased from its peak. Using two y-axes in this graph makes it easy to see that: (1) total building square footage has increased over time; and that (2) electricity usage displays a consistent downward trend since 2006 (Figure 7-5).
Graphics are also used as a creative means for displaying an organization's overall approach to energy efficiency and cost reduction. Below, Cleveland, Ohio, created a visual of the cost-benefit analysis for the sustainability strategy outlined in the Cleveland Municipal Action Plan (Figure 7-6). This particular graphic was intended for an informed audience familiar with Cleveland's emission reduction strategies.
Maps and Other Visualization Methods
Beyond conventional methods of data display, such as tables, graphs, and charts, consider utilizing more interactive and creative methods for communicating energy-use information to your stakeholders and the broader public. The following are a few examples of innovative data displays utilizing interactive maps and other visualization methods:
Columbia University: Sustainable Energy Lab
Created by Columbia University's Sustainable Engineering Lab, the map below represents an estimate of the total annual building energy consumption at the block and tax-lot levels for New York City expressed in kWh per square meter of land area (Figure 7-7).
District of Columbia: Energy Benchmarking DC
Each year, the District of Columbia's Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) publishes detailed energy and water performance benchmarking data from the largest buildings in the District. DOEE transformed the disclosure of this information from raw data spreadsheets to a visualization tool that better tells the story of what energy usage in the District's buildings look like.
- The tool is searchable by building address or by zooming in to the area of the District where a building is located, then clicking on the colored dot representing a building and its associated benchmarking data.
- Users can filter by 15 data fields such as: Property Name, Owner of Record, Property Type, Compliance Status, Property Size, Year Built, ENERGY STAR Score, Water Use, and so on.
- The colors of the dots on the map represent the relative scale for the selected metric that the user is currently viewing on the map. The metrics are listed on the left-hand side of the screen within the categories of Property Information, Energy Use, Water Use, Energy Performance Metrics, and Greenhouse Emissions.
Kentucky: Commonwealth Energy Management and Control System
The Commonwealth Energy and Control Management System is a public-facing dashboard that tracks the progress of energy and cost savings initiatives for public buildings throughout Kentucky. The building-level data displayed provide transparency and identifies energy savings opportunities and corrective actions that can be taken to reduce energy use. This tool has allowed Kentucky to operate as much as 25% more efficiently in integrated facilities.
Arizona State University: The Hestia Project
The Hestia Project software system combines diverse data about the flow and metabolism of the energy-emissions-climate nexus. Hestia quantifies, simulates, and visualizes the metabolism of greenhouse gas emitting activity down to the building and street level (Figure 7-10). Hestia provides stakeholders the opportunity to design and implement carbon management strategies and verify emissions reductions. It allows the public, decision makers, and others access to detailed space-time information on carbon emissions. To date, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Phoenix all have used Hestia's software to visualize carbon emissions across their city environments.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Heat Map Tool
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, developed a no-cost, replicable heat map tool to visualize hourly energy usage data for city facilities. The heat maps provide greater visibility into electricity usage within city-owned buildings. By regularly monitoring electricity use, the city can identify energy and operational efficiency opportunities more effectively and evaluate the impacts of efficiency measures within its buildings.