New ENERGY STAR report

By on Oct 22, 2020 in Energy

An ongoing series of research reports from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) details information from the hundreds of thousands of buildings who use ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager to track energy usage. The latest report focuses on renewable energy and trends in energy metering and efficiency tracking.

Onsite renewable energy systems

The report studies data from over 260,000 properties, determining that less than 1% (2,447 properties) are currently generating onsite renewable energy. However, even with this low total, the use of onsite renewables has increased ten-fold in the last decade. Among the most common property types who do generate renewable energy are retail stores, K-12 schools and offices. Schools and worship facilities account for the largest number as a percentage of their total properties, still only representing 2.4% each. By comparison, only half a percent of multifamily housing properties have implemented renewable systems.

Where are these systems most commonly found? According to the study, California leads the way by a wide margin with nearly 1,000 properties. That number represents more than the next 10 highest states combined.

Because the source energy conversion factor is lower for onsite renewable energy, these properties have higher ENERGY STAR scores by a significant margin compared to all properties (74 to 59). Data also shows that 55% of these buildings meet less than a quarter of their electrical consumption from onsite renewables.

Metering challenges and considerations

There are three primary types of meters that customers use, determined by local utility company standards and building electrical systems. The report dives into the types of meters, what information they do or do not provide and how this impacts energy benchmarking and efficiency goals.

Net meters spin forward or backward showing net consumption of power, but do not tell you what was imported or exported. Bi-directional meters tell you how much energy was imported and how much renewable energy was exported. The least common, dual meters have two devices, one to measure import and another for export.

The main billing issue, as described in the study, is that only reporting net consumption makes it challenging to benchmark energy performance. To assess this accurately, you need all energy use, regardless of source. Portfolio Manager accurately incorporates onsite renewables into efficiency calculations. Developers may be willing to retrofit older meters with newer versions in order to capture renewable energy generated onsite exported back to the grid and the amount of grid energy sent to the building.

The report goes into further detail about renewable energy certificates, inaccurate billing and metering practices, and thoroughly explains the flow chart connecting energy, meter and property. While the total number of buildings reporting onsite renewable energy continues to grow, it still represents a fraction of total properties. Data will become more available to customers as more meters support accurate measurement of onsite renewable energy. Until then, it’s hard to paint a detailed picture of efficiency and even harder to invest in a mix of strategies to achieve great energy use reduction.