<< Back

ENERGY STAR Updates Coming: Will Your Score Decrease?

  • August 8, 2017

Current ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager scores are based on comparing your property against the 2003 CBECS (Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey).  The latest version, 2012 CBECS, is currently under review with the EPA, and Portfolio Manager is expected to be updated with the new data in 2018.  Your scores will change!  Read on to learn more about the update, what’s changing, what’s not, and what you should do.

What is CBECS?

The Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) is a national sample survey conducted by the EIA that collects information on the stock of U.S. commercial buildings, including their energy-related building characteristics and energy usage data (consumption and expenditures). Commercial buildings include all buildings in which at least half of the floorspace is used for a purpose that is not residential, industrial, or agricultural (EIA CBECS).  Current ENERGY STAR scores are based on the 2003 CBECS.  In 2018, scores will be updated based on the 2012 CBECS.

2012 CBECS vs. 2003 CBECS

The 2012 CBECS sampled 6,700 buildings; 2003 CBECS sampled 5,215 buildings.  It is a common misconception that your ENERGY STAR scores provides a ranking against the actual data of your peers.  These samples are meant to provide a statistically valid representation of the entire building stock, but do not actually compare you against all 5.6 million commercial buildings in the US.  Some findings from the new survey vs. 2003:

  • 14% increase in the number of buildings in the US
  • 22% increase in floor space
  • Only two sectors show statistically significant changes in energy use – Office and Education

EIA energy use by commercial buildings

What’s Changing?

The purpose of using updated survey data is to determine if buildings are becoming more or less efficient.  If the market is getting more efficient, then it may become harder to qualify for ENERGY STAR certification (i.e. the bar is set higher).  So what should you expect with the update to Portfolio Manager?

  • Median energy use for each property type will likely change
  • Correlations between energy use and key activities (e.g. hours, workers, computers) will likely change
  • Which variables are included/excluded from the model
  • The scores of your properties will likely change! If the median energy use for your property type decreases, then your score (all else equal) will likely decrease.  This is particularly true for Office properties since there’s been a statistically significant reduction in EUI across the sector since 2003.

What’s Not Changing?

The EPA will not rescind prior certifications, so all certified properties will remain on the registry.  Additionally, the intent of the model (provide a national level benchmark) and the overall incorporation of variables that impact energy consumption will not change.  The actual statistical model itself will.

What Should I Do?

  1. Work with a company that understands how ENERGY STAR scores are calculated and can help you explain why your score decreased, despite all of the potential operational changes and/or capital projects you’ve implemented
  2. Automate the updating of Portfolio Manager with an ENERGY STAR Partner organization whose utility data management/auditing/reporting platform integrates directly with Portfolio Manager
  3. Don’t exclusively rely on ENERGY STAR scores for decision making. Understand how your property and/or portfolio ranks against your peers by comparing against an anonymized dataset, such as EnergyWatch’s integration with the Department of Energy’s Building Performance Database

To learn more, schedule a demo of our watchwire platform to see how we can automate Portfolio Manager updates, provide peer benchmarking through the DOE BPD, simplify your trend and variance reporting, and optimize your facilities through peak load management, real-time monitoring, and strategic energy procurement.






“U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis.” Energy Information Administration (EIA)- About the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS).  Web. 04 Aug. 2017. <https://www.eia.gov/consumption/commercial/about.php>.

“U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis.” Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) – Analysis & Projections – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).  Web. 04 Aug. 2017. <https://www.eia.gov/consumption/commercial/2012-cbecs-building-sampling.php>.

“U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis.” Energy Information Administration (EIA)- Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) Data.  Web. 04 Aug. 2017. <https://www.eia.gov/consumption/commercial/data/2003/index.php?view=methodology>.

Zatz, Mike and Burgess, Matt. CBECS 2012: Update on EPA’s Schedule and Methodology.  Web. 04 Aug. 2017. <https://www.energystar.gov/sites/default/files/asset/document/CBECS_UpdateWebinar_December2016_Final_1.pdf>.