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These steps lead to energy savings

Written by: Jeff Benavides

Commercial and industrial energy efficiency has already achieved massive savings. In 2019, commercial sector energy consumption is 21% less than the equivalent floor space required in 1980. Industrial sector consumption for equivalent output decreased by 42%.

That’s only the beginning. An estimated 23% of total U.S. non-transportation energy demand could be saved through energy-efficiency improvements. Every existing and planned facility has energy efficiency potential worth discovering. Combined, those savings could bring a $1.2 trillion benefit to the U.S. economy.[1]

Organizations can claim their share by finding available savings in their new and existing building. A strategic, iterative approach can succeed. Benefits can be quantified and reliably predicted before even the smallest investment is made.

Consider this 5-step approach:



Quantifying and analyzing energy use is the starting point for managing that expense. That benchmarking process requires that accurate information be input. Some will be readily available. Depending on the type of property, some information may be more of a chore to find. Energy-related costs may have to be extracted from the pages of maintenance contracts and capital project budgets. Fortunately, the one-time chore of finding relevant data will yield recurring cost savings.

Benchmarking data for any building should include the amount of each type of energy used in each of twelve consecutive months. Preferably, that information should be specific to metered areas of the building; for example, an office area, a warehouse, a lobby, or a retail space. The gross floor areas should also be documented.

Other essential data varies by property. For hotels, the numbers of guest rooms, food service areas, kitchens, and laundries should be tallied. Hospital benchmarking should include counts of staffed beds, workers, and MRI machines. A convenient data collection worksheet[2] brings up a lists of required data that are specific to over 70 property types.

That worksheet is a component of the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers the ENERGY STAR program[3] to promote energy efficiency, helping individuals and businesses save money while protecting the environment. The Portfolio Manager is provided free and online to measure and track energy and other utilities.[4] A full 40% of U.S. commercial building space has been benchmarked in it.[5]

After finding a building’s energy use and cost information, Portfolio Manager dashboards and tools like the “add property” and “add meters” wizards make the configuring that data efficient and accurate.[6]

Target and track

Target and Track

Once a benchmark is established, it’s time to specify energy use targets and to track performance against those goals. Goals can be based on the energy use of similar existing buildings. That information can be viewed and compared from within the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.

Monthly updates and tracking of utility expense for one building can be done in minutes. Organizations managing multiple buildings or many utility meters may choose to partner with a service and product provider to automate the input of utility bills into your dashboard. The time-savings can make the investment worthwhile. Is the organization hitting its goals? If so, utility expense savings should far exceed the investment in an automated solution.

Strategically upgrade

Analysis of energy cost and consumption is likely to reveal needs for equipment upgrades and other budget allocations. Worse yet, some of those may not be budgeted. That makes a strategic selection of upgrades the next step in claiming energy savings.

A simplified way to focus on higher-value upgrades begins with quantifying the likely positive impact of that upgrade. How much will energy costs be reduced over the projected useful life? The estimated savings can then be divided by the estimated cost.

Strategically upgrade

Upgrades with substantially faster payback will be attractive options, provided available funds. Sometimes, small ‘quick wins’ can lead to greater investments with greater returns. Regardless of scale, competitive proposals involving varied contractors and fixtures may reveal new and better products and technologies as well as a better price.

Sometimes, better financing is available as well. An Energy Service Company (ESCO) may propose an Energy Performance Contract.[7] In that case, the ESCO would shoulder much of the up-front capital cost. The upgrade would then be paid through future energy savings, leaving capital budgets intact.[8]

More than 30 states, including Florida, offer their own sources of up-front capital. Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) funds in those states are repaid over time through off balance sheet tax assessments. That funding strategy can be long-term and transferrable to future owners of the property.[9]

A strategic upgrade based on quantified value, competitive bids, and the best-available funding will provide the greatest predictable long-term results.

Manage and maintain

Manage and maintain

To hold accountability, conduct a  review when each project is implemented. That can boost the value of existing upgrades as well as increase the probability of future success. Knowing what went well and where lessons had to be learned will avert future mistakes.

The ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager with or without web service automation offers powerful analytical graphs and reports that are accessible online and can be downloaded for distribution. It provides over 100 performance metrics that present numbers as actionable information.[10]

As budget years pass, technologies will have evolved, equipment will have aged, and priorities will vary. The Strategically Upgrade and the Manage and Maintain steps are likely to be repeated. Results of one upgrade, quantified through Portfolio Manager charts and dashboards, become significant factors in deciding which initiative to pursue next.


Through each cycle of upgrading, managing and maintaining energy efficiency, keep leadership and peers informed of the lessons learned and the value returned. Silence and inaction never achieve optimal results.


Best results are seen through ongoing and deliberate upgrades. Sometimes an energy awareness campaign[11] can serve a dual purpose: focusing attention where improvement is needed now while gaining support for further upgrades.

Competitions[12] can be a great way to motivate your team to find new efficiencies, engage occupants in your efforts, and to multiply savings across your portfolio – all while helping the environment. Many industry organizations sponsor national and international energy efficiency competitions. Those can bring awards and achievements that key customers will value.

Does your industry or professional association promote energy efficiency through a campaign, as these do?

  • Airports Council International – Environmental Achievement Awards[13]
  • American Association of Airport Executives — Airports Going Green Awards[14]
  • American Hospital Association — Energy to Care Awards[15]
  • International Tourism Partnership — Green Hotelier Awards[16]
  • Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance — Inspiring Efficiency Awards[17]
  • US Green Building Council — Leadership Award [18]

ecoPreserve is here to help organizations that are seeking the next level of energy management success. Reach out with your benchmarking, assessment, or ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager® questions. We look forward to hearing from you!

[1] — Worldwatch Institute
[2] — Data Collection Worksheet
[3] — EPA’s ENERGYSTAR program
[4] — Why use Portfolio Manager?
[5] — Portfolio Manager use
[6] — Benchmarking starter kit
[9] — C-PACE funding
[10] — Interpret your results
[11] — Energy awareness
[13] — ACI Environmental Achievement Awards
[14] — Airports Going Green Awards
[15] — AHA Energy to Care Awards
[16] — Green Hotelier Awards
[17] — Inspiring Efficiency Awards
[18] — USGBC Leadership Award