I’m excited about today’s launch of EnergyScoreCards Minnesota. A big, concrete step is being taken to address one of the barriers to improving the utility efficiency in multifamily buildings.
I’ve been pondering improving the utility costs of multifamily buildings for what feels like forever – starting in 1996 in my owner-occupied 4-unit home, and affordable multifamily buildings as part of Minnesota Green Communities starting in 2006. In this post I shared some of the challenges to reducing water and energy use in this market. How does this change anything?
As one step towards addressing some of those challenges, multifamily buildings in Xcel, CenterPoint, and a few other utility service territories will have free access to an online benchmarking tool, EnergyScoreCards. Huh? Benchmarking?
In essence, EnergyScoreCards has a database of ~2500 multifamily buildings that includes the actual utility consumption and some key building characteristics of those buildings. They then do some fancy data analysis on the whole thing and figure out – for a specific type of building – what is typical usage, what is high, and what is low.
When you add your multifamily building to their database, they give you a grade, and voila – you know whether your building has accessible opportunities to conserve! The report card breaks things out into heating, cooling, baseload electric (stuff you plug in), baseload gas (most often hot water heaters), and water. If you get a bad grade in a category, that’s where to invest.
There’s lots more info in the tool, including financial context. In a relatively small building, if you get a D (it’s only A through D, so I think of D as failing) in cooling, but also only spend $500 on cooling in a year, there’s probably not enough payback to justify investment. However, if you get a C on heating and spend $5,000 a year, there probably is.
That seems like a pretty good start – owners and managers will finally have access to information about how their buildings compare to other buildings, and a sense of where to invest. That’s big.
We get other benefits, too. This is a multi-year pilot project (more about the pilot under “news” here). When it’s done, we will have baseline data for utility companies, the State, and funders who want to invest in efficiency to know how typical multifamily buildings perform (can you believe no one has a clue about that now?!?) Then, those groups can
- assess whether it’s reasonable to lend money to a project for improvements, and better assess reasonable savings expectations
- design and target conservation programs to properties where there’s the most cost-effective opportunities
Finally, in my fantasy world, property owners will market their buildings as efficient (& provide back-up data for the claim) AND tenants will demonstrate a preference for efficient, utility-affordable homes.