Condos Mandated to Report Energy and Water Usage by 2019
While our name may have changed, our commitment to outstanding customer service remains. Ontario’s new Energy and Water Reporting and Benchmarking initiative (EWRB) is an excellent example of this. Our Energy Manager and VP of Client Services have been working behind the scenes with the Ministry since 2015 on this initiative to ensure a solid foundation has been set for our clients.
This communication goes further than providing the elementary background information and key dates of the EWRB. Here, we provide expert guidance on how to implement the EWRB initiative, so your condominium will receive the largest benefit.
Background on the development of the EWRB:
- The Province is implementing a performance benchmarking initiative based on the principle that information can transform building performance.
- Improved building performance will help meet Ontario’s conservation and GHG (Greenhouse Gases) reduction targets - office towers and residential buildings accounted for almost 20% of Ontario GHGs in 2013.
- Evidence supports the notion that benchmarking results that are made public are an effective way to improve efficiency – CivicAction's voluntary “Race to Reduce” benchmarking program achieved a 12% energy reduction from 2010-2014 across commercial GTA buildings.
- 21 major cities in the US now require benchmarking, including New York, Boston, and Chicago.
- Enabled by Ontario Regulation 20/17, Ontario is the first province in Canada to implement a formal policy for privately owned buildings. Public sector buildings in Ontario have been benchmarking and reporting for four years now.
When do condominiums have to report?
The government is wisely using a step-wise implementation plan for the EWRB:
- Condominiums are allowed to report one year later than commercial/ industrial buildings.
- Condominiums over 100,000 ft2 (about 100 suites) will have until July 1, 2019 to report their data from the 2018 calendar year.
- Smaller condominiums are given a further one year grace period – condominiums over 50,000 ft2 (about 50 suites) will have until July 1, 2020 to report data from the 2019 calendar year.
What will condominiums have to report? How will reporting work?
Some of the details still need to be worked out, but we know enough to share the answers to some of the most commonly asked items:
- Utilities are required by the regulation to provide building owners with consumption data;
- Building owners will use EnergyStar’s Portfolio Manager Tool to enter their monthly consumption information. Portfolio Manager is an internationally recognized, free, web-based software tool.
- Building owners are also required to enter other building information into Portfolio Manager – things like address, and gross floor area;
- The software combines the consumption information with other building parameters (floor area) to calculate a performance benchmark or score for your condominium complex.
- If the building is individually metered for electricity, the total electricity consumption is entered that represents the common area plus all of the suites.
- If there is only one utility meter for an entire complex, then the information will be entered as a complex – individual buildings will be considered part of the complex.
What is the benefit of benchmarking for condominiums?
Benchmarking using the internationally recognized Portfolio Manager tool allows you to compare your building performance over time. It also allows you to compare your building’s performance with similar buildings. We see this helping in two ways:
- The benchmark provides owners with excellent quality information needed to prioritize energy efficiency decisions with other priorities at their corporation. A poor score delivers a clear message of the opportunity a building has to improve efficiency.
- A credible benchmark makes for an excellent communication tool to justify energy projects and/or to communicate successes to owners.
The elephant in the room – public reporting:
Ontario’s EWRB, like many other formal benchmarking policies, requires that some of the reported data is made public. Why is that? Firstly, the government intends to encourage rather than enforce compliance. Secondly, the public has asked for this kind of data on buildings. Similar to the fuel economy stickers mandated to be on new vehicles that allow for standardized comparisons, publicly available building benchmarks will allow potential owners to compare building performance. We think this will allow more efficient buildings to demand higher property values. Not coincidentally, the government also sees the release of benchmark information as potentially unlocking market forces that will drive buildings to invest in energy efficiency.
So what data will be made public? The Ministry of Energy reports that they will publicly disclose the following:
- Property identification (likely condominium corporation number and address);
- Building age;
- ENERGY STAR score; and
- Energy, water and GHG intensity (“intensity” means the amount per square foot)
The Ministry reports they will not publicly disclose the first year of reported data – they want to give everyone a chance to get some experience with the data before it is made public.
What should a building do to prepare for the EWRB?
At the present time, we are recommending that condominiums do not spend too much time and effort preparing for EWRB implementation. We have three reasons for making this recommendation:
- Let the commercial and industrial buildings work out the bugs:
The one year grace period will allow condominiums to learn from the implementation experiences of commercial and industrial buildings at no cost, which will lower the cost of compliance for condominiums.
- The infrastructure required for compliance is not ready yet:
Quite simply, the infrastructure that will enable utilities to provide building owners with consumption data is not yet completed.
- Instead, take the time to understand your building’s energy use:
Benchmarking is more energy “measurement” as opposed to energy “management”. If a building wanted to get the jump on the EWRB, a condominium could make a nominal investment of $950 + HST (from the engineering firm Finn Projects) to develop an “energy model” of their building. Perhaps better known as a “weather corrected baseline”, this tool leads to an excellent understanding of how your building operates under various weather conditions. Increased understanding often leads to increased performance and ultimately a better score from Portfolio Manager.
What has Crossbridge done to support their clients with the EWRB?
Our on-going commitment to leadership in the field of energy is demonstrated by the work from our Energy Manager and VP of Client Services with the Ministry of Energy on this initiative. We were the only condominium management company in the room back in 2015, and our contributions continue to be recognized through invitations to participate in various EWRB working groups.
This work has generated many benefits for our clients:
- We successful argued against a proposal that would have forced buildings to complete formal energy audits on a regular basis. In our experience, we believed this would be both costly and offer limited benefits to our corporations.
- On the basis of lowering costs, we successfully argued that many professions, not just engineers, had the expertise to provide the critical step of verifying the EWRB submissions.
- Our involvement was key to granting condominiums a one year reporting grace period. This will allow condominiums to learn from the implementation experiences of commercial and industrial buildings at no cost, which will both lower the cost of compliance and increase benefits of the EWRB for our clients.
- We have already begun to work collaboratively with various industry stakeholders to pilot the benchmarking process at some of our client buildings. Not only will this increase our learning of the EWRB, it will also assist the Province – all of this contributing to a lower cost of compliance and increased benefits of the EWRB for our clients.