Owners and operators of large commercial buildings in the Garden State are subject to new benchmarking requirements under an order the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities issued Sept. 7.
The move requires every commercial building in the state that is over 25,000 square feet to benchmark energy and water use with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Portfolio Manager tool.
The first benchmarking submissions are due Oct. 1, 2023, for energy and water consumed in 2022.
The order is part of the New Jersey Clean Energy Act that Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law in 2018, which aims for the state to reach 100% clean energy by 2050. NJBPU President Joseph Fiordaliso described the rule as the next important step toward achieving that goal.
“Creating a system of benchmarking allows us to measure the use of energy (electricity and gas) and water by the state’s biggest buildings and support building owners in reducing energy and water usage and operating costs,” he said in a statement.
Utilities are required to provide secure, aggregated building-level data, thus protecting individual ratepayers’ energy and water use information.
According to NJBPU, building owners must obtain a tenant’s written consent for the utilities from which they receive services to provide building-level energy and water data to that owner in certain situations to protect individual-use information. Consent is required only when there are fewer than four tenants in a building, or if one occupant exceeds 50% of the energy or water consumption.
Benchmarking also provides a comparison of the different scales of energy use across similar buildings or a property’s past energy consumption.
Aside from helping owners and operators use energy more efficiently, NJPBU highlighted Goal 3.3.2 of the Energy Master Plan as a directive for the Wednesday move. That calls for benchmarking and energy labeling as a way to instigate market-driven energy efficiencies.
As part of the program, property owners will be able to obtain aggregated, building-level energy and water data from utility companies through a data access service. Now that building owners and operators will be able to compare their energy usage with others or across properties, NJBPU says that information can help to make informed decisions when it comes to utilizing financial incentives offered by state and utility programs to improve energy efficiency.
NJBPU is also setting up a “help desk” to assist owners’ in analyzing their energy and water performance.
Maybe this all sounds great, but what about owners or operators of buildings less than 25,000 square feet? According to NJBPU, the state’s Clean Energy Program also offers assistance to owners not required to benchmark under the Clean Energy Act.