Colorado PUC Considers Easing Access to Building Energy Use Data

DENVER, CO—The Colorado Public Utilities Commission will review this summer a request to revise rules that restrict the ability of municipalities and building owners to obtain from utilities the annual energy use data for their commercial and apartment buildings.

A group of Colorado cities, counties and advocacy groups told the PUC on Tuesday, July 1, that local governments and building owners must have access to aggregated energy use data in order to benchmark and measure energy efficiency improvements. The group also noted that Colorado’s rules protecting utility customer privacy are some of the most restrictive in the nation.

“Building owners have an economic interest in understanding and managing energy use in their buildings,” said Lauren Smith, buildings program associate at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, who testified before the Commission. “EPA has found that building owners who benchmark through the industry-standard ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool reduce energy use by 2.4% per year—in many cases lowering costs for tenants.”

The Commission was asked to:

  1. Allow a building owner to obtain “whole building energy use data” from a utility for buildings with two or more tenants while maintaining the utility’s customer privacy interests. Currently, rules provide data access for buildings with a minimum of 15 tenants where no single account comprises more than 15% of the total energy use. In addition, a building owner could obtain energy use data for a building with just one tenant as long as the tenant formally agrees to share the information.
     
  2. Consider overall revisions to rules that would balance a utility’s concern about customer data privacy with the benefits of energy efficiency and the growing interests of cities and counties in benchmarking and measuring energy efficiency improvements.

With 221 certified buildings, Denver has the eighth highest number of EPA ENERGY STAR buildings in the country, according to EPA. But analysis based upon Denver’s urban land use data shows that an additional 1,250 buildings in the city with between five and 14 tenants are not eligible to obtain annual whole building energy use data from their utility.

The Commission also was urged to encourage Colorado’s regulated utilities to update their data systems and import energy use information for building owners and managers directly into EPA’s Portfolio Manager Web Services database. Web Services lets building owners view their ENERGY STAR scores and compare their building energy use to other similar buildings in the nation in an apples-to-apples format, Smith said.

The Commission will review comments on a draft document revising data access and privacy rules before it convenes a second public hearing on Sept. 30, 2014.

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Contacts:
Lauren Smith, SWEEP: (303) 447-0078 x3; cell: 678-410-9230
Jessica Scott, Air Quality Administrator, Department of Environmental Health, City and County of Denver: 720-865-2891