Understanding California’s New Energy Benchmarking Regulations

Justin Manalo

Posted by Justin Manalo

The California Energy Commission (Commission) recently finalized the rules implementing California ‘s new energy benchmarking program, the first statewide energy benchmarking program for commercial and multi-family residential buildings. Commercial buildings falling under the California Energy Benchmarking Regulations (Regulations) must submit their energy use data by June 1, 2018, and multi-family residential building need to comply the following year.

Downtown_Los_AngelesCalifornia Energy Benchmarking Statute

We previously wrote about California Assembly Bill 802 (AB 802), creating California’s updated energy benchmarking program in 2015.The program requires energy benchmarking for a building of at least 50,000 square feet gross floor area that is non-residential or residential with five or more Active Utility Accounts.

The new law makes it easier for businesses to obtain their energy use data by requiring electrical and gas utilities to provide owners and operators with the prior year’s aggregated energy use data for the building unless a commercial building has two or fewer active accounts or a residential building has four or fewer accounts. If there are one or two tenants in a commercial building, they must provide consent to the utility sharing the energy data.

A building’s energy data must be made available to the general public, giving building owners an incentive to improve their building’s energy efficiency. The 2015 statute required the Commission to develop regulations implementing the new law.

California Energy Benchmarking Regulations

The Commission held a series of public workshops and accepted public comments on the draft version prior to the Regulations becoming final. The new Regulations are codified at Title 20, Public Utilities and Energy section of the California Code of Regulations.

Acquiring Utility Energy Use Data

To receive energy use data from a utility, a building owner or their agent must provide in writing or via a secured electronic method (approved by the utility):

  • Building’s address;
  • Verification that the requesting person is authorized to receive the data;
  • The number of postal addresses covered by the Active Utility Account;
  • Written permission from account holders in a commercial building that has two or less active accounts or four or less for a building with at least one residential account; and
  • Confirmation that the request is made for compliance with the Regulations Benchmarking and Public Disclosure requirements if there are two or fewer utility accounts for the building.

Utilities are required to share for each building meter the last four digits of the meter number and the building’s aggregated energy use data for each energy type by month for the prior calendar year. This information may be directly uploaded to the building owner/agent’s United States Environmental Protection Agency’s free ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager (Portfolio Manager) account or made available by the Portfolio Manager spreadsheet template. A utility may permit building owners/operators to request the automatic uploading of energy use data on a recurring basis so long as the building owner/operator notifies the utility of the changes specified in the regulation.

All energy use data requests must be reviewed by a utility within 14 calendar days of receipt. The utility must send the data to the building owner/operator within 28 calendar days of receiving a request. Extra time is required if the information submitted is incomplete, for example, permission must still be obtained from individual utility customers.

Benchmarking Requirements

A Disclosable Building is defined by the Regulations as having more than 50,000 square feet and no residential Active Utility Accounts or 17 or more residential Active Utility Accounts (there are some exceptions). Commercial Disclosable Buildings (no residential accounts) must begin compliance by 2018. All other Disclosable Buildings must start to comply in 2019. 

For each Disclosable Building, it is necessary to complete the relevant fields in Portfolio Manager and request energy use data by March 1 of the first year of compliance, and March 1 for each subsequent year. Thus, commercial Disclosable Buildings should have filed their first request by March 1, 2018.

Disclosable Buildings with three or more Activity Utility Accounts (or fewer but the customers have granted permission) must complete the Portfolio Manager reporting steps by June 1 of the first year of compliance (June 1, 2018, for commercial buildings), and June 1 of every subsequent year. There are alternative requirements for Disclosable Buildings with two or less Active Utility Accounts.

Public Disclosure

The Commission will make publicly available the benchmarking data from commercial Disclosable Buildings beginning with the data filed in 2019 (data submitted in 2018 excluded). Similarly, for Disclosable Buildings with residential accounts, the Commission will begin disclosing the data filed in 2020. The Commission may publish on a publicly available website a building’s ENERGY STAR Score along with other information about the building and its energy use as enumerated in the regulations.

Exemptions and Enforcement

A building owner is exempt from the Regulations benchmarking and disclosure requirements if the building:

  • Didn’t have a certificate of occupancy (including temporary) for more than half of the year reporting is required;
  • Will be demolished (within the year from the reporting date); or
  • Is benchmarked under a local program approved by the Commission as fulfilling the state program requirements.

A building owner will be in violation of the Regulations if they fail to undertake the benchmarking requirements or knowingly provides false information to the Commission or a utility. The Regulations require the Commission to notify the building owner of a violation and provide 30 days for corrections. Thereafter, the Commission may impose a civil penalty on the party in violation.

See the Commission’s Building Energy Benchmarking Program’s website page for up-to-date information on the requirements.

Time will tell whether California’s first statewide energy benchmarking program for both commercial and multi-family residential buildings will push buildings to increase their energy efficiency.Learn About Our Los Angeles Office


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