Benchmarking energy performance

Benchmarking is the process of evaluating the relative energy use of facilities. Using benchmarking data, organizations can compare the energy use per square foot for each building. This enables them to identify opportunities to save energy and prioritize efforts.  This data provides a first look; to get a complete picture of energy-saving opportunities, energy audits and/or surveys are needed.

Energy auditing

Energy audits evaluate the energy use of buildings to identify opportunities for improving efficiency and reducing costs. Energy auditors gather a broad range of historical and real-time data to determine potential savings measures. The level of audit detail is determined by evaluating current performance and considering the district objectives and funding. The audit report will include a list of recommended measures along with calculations of the estimated annual energy savings, utility bill savings, cost of the project, PG&E incentives, and cost to the customer.

Cost-effective prioritization

Recommendations from the audit will be evaluated and prioritized based on measures established by the district such as return on investment, available funding, and green house gas reduction. A common rule of thumb is “reduce before you produce.” That’s because energy efficiency projects tend to be much less expensive than renewable generation projects. The standard “loading order” is to implement energy efficiency projects (lighting, HVAC, behavioral change) before installing solar systems.

Behavior modification

Schools can save estimated 10 to 20% in energy use through behavior change programs. Districts can blend two approaches: top down (changing district policy) and bottom up (setting up green teams and incorporating resource conservation in curriculum). Research shows that when districts share monetary savings with schools, the schools stay engaged, and save more energy.

Efficient operation of facilities

Training and certifying building operators is one of the most cost-effective strategies for reducing school energy use and costs. (SMC Energy Watch provides training and education; see below for information about Builder Operator Certification training.)