Chicago - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Demand Management, Energy Efficiency  -  March 17, 2017

Chicago benchmarking analysis reveals challenges

While the latest data from Chicago on the city's energy benchmarking program showed significant overall savings, a recent analysis by Midwest Energy News also uncovered some challenge areas. 

The Windy City's building energy benchmarking ordinance was adopted in 2013 with the goal of raise awareness of energy performance through information and transparency, with the goal of unlocking energy and cost savings opportunities. In January, the city released its third annual report on the program, which is currently tracking the energy use of close to 2,700 properties.

According to the city's report, Chicago properties involved in the city's energy benchmarking program have saved $17.8 million on energy bills since the program's inception. But on March 16, Midwest Energy News published an analysis of the city's data revealing that several large properties continue to struggle to make improvements.

Using measurements from the U.S. EPA's Energy Star program, the publication reported that "in some cases, a change in a building's publicly reported energy performance data appears to be the result of accounting variability or errors as opposed to an actual change in energy performance."

Midwest Energy News reported: 

Chicago's own City Hall saw its Energy Star rating decline more than any other building that reported data between 2014 and 2015, according to the city’s record-keeping. Officials say this decline is not the result of a change in energy usage, but instead how it measured energy use.

Citing the city's data, the publication noted that Chicago City Hall's Energy Star score dropped by 40 points to 36 in 2015 from 76 in 2014, representing the most significant rating decline of any of the 234 buildings that publicly reported data for both 2014 and 2015, based on a Midwest Energy News analysis. However, the publication also attributed the decline to the change in the accounting method used to track the building's energy use. 

Citing a Chicago Department of Fleet and Facility Management spokesperson, the publication reported that the change involves natural gas usage for City Hall and the natural gas used for steam generation in the nearly identical Cook County Building.  Other buildings that reported data showed similar discrepancies, according to the report. 

Over time, however, the margin of error in the data should diminish:

"The benchmarking ordinance requires that every three years — starting with the first year a building complies with the ordinance — buildings have their data verified by an individual with licensing or training recognized by the city," Midwest Energy News wrote. "Over time, as building owners become more familiar with the process, the margin of error should decrease and trend lines should become more clear." 

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