AB 802 - Moving Towards an Era of Energy Use Disclosure and Benchmarking

With the passage of Assembly Bill 802 earlier in 2015, California became the first state in the nation with the mandate to provide energy use data to users so they can measure or benchmark the energy use of building for operational, behavioral, and explore retro-commissioning activities to reach energy efficiency goals.  

California has had a benchmarking law for commercial buildings for over seven years now, under previous law (AB 1103) building owners and operators faced some challenges to obtain the data from the utilities.The demands made by utilities for authorization from tenants included several forms, which in many cases were been difficult or even impossible to obtain. AB 802 addressed the previous law's largest barrier and also expanded benchmarking to multi-family residential buildings.

Why should it matter to Owners?
Benchmarking serves as a mechanism to compare itself with peers or established norms and codes. It facilitates energy accounting and allows the opportunity to compare energy use for improvement and quantifying/verifying energy savings. It is the foundational element of any organization's energy management strategy because you can't manage what you can’t measure.

The Existing Law – AB 1103
Under AB 1103, utilities were required to maintain records of the energy consumption of certain nonresidential buildings and make the energy consumption data available upon request of a building owner or operator. An owner or operator, in turn, were required to disclose benchmarking data and ratings for a building for the most recent 12 months to a prospective buyer, lessee, or lender. (Public Resources Code §25402.10.)
In practice, however, multi tenant commercial building owners were required to procure numerous paper forms from multiple organizations and have multiple trips for authorization which was difficult and often ignored.

Although there were no fines or penalties for non-compliance, An investigation may be launched by the California Energy Commission, if building found not to comply. The implementation of this was limited. 

What’s new in bill AB 802
As of January 1, 2017, every utility in California will be required to provide a year's worth of monthly energy consumption for an entire building to an owner (or owner's agent) upon request. Within four weeks a utility will have to respond to the request and provide information directly or upload it to the owner's Energy Star Portfolio Manager account. 

Because this information does not disclose information about any individual customer (or tenant), building owners may use it to better manage their properties since it does not disclose information about any individual customer. 

Prior to AB 802 and in the absence of regulation, information was provided in PDF format, with numerous of consent forms, and took months (or even over a year) before providing the data. Now the energy data will be provided in Excel format or directly to EPA Portfolio Manager. This will enable owners to analyze the information or import it into other existing benchmarking tools that provide valuable analytical support and visually represent data in an engaging format, such as WeGoWise or Energy Scorecard.

This will Result in Numerous Benefits:
1. Increase the transparency of buildings' energy usage, empowers renters and buyers to select more efficient buildings. This further increases building occupancy rates and real estate values.
Increasing Energy Awareness and Engagement, and More Jobs. 
2. With increased engagement, large-scale benchmarking programs can spur an era of retro-commissioning, energy audits, and installation of upgraded systems and equipment.
Spending Public Funds Responsibly; Directing Efficiency Incentives to Buildings that Need It Most
3. With public benchmarking information, utilities, local governments, government agencies, clean energy companies and others can identify inefficient buildings and can best direct limited public fundings. 

Thanks to AB 802, utilities and building owners will be better positioned to improve energy efficiency, and with better information, building owners can lead actionable changes in building equipment, operations, and consumption--which in turn will reduce energy usage, lower utility bills, and improve the comfort of residents' living environments.