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BOMA FILES Energy Legislation in Limbo Industry groups advocate while Congress deals with the debt ceiling and shutdown S ometimes I wonder if we sound like a broken record or if our efforts are futile. Every session of Congress, BOMA and its coalition partners strive to enact mean- ingful bipartisan energy legislation, only to be thwarted by a Congress seemingly determined to accomplish nothing. The real estate industry and environ- mentalists often find themselves at odds with each other. Though they work to achieve their respective sustainability goals, their means of doing so are quite different. Real estate usually promotes voluntary incentive programs while envi- ronmentalists typically favor mandates. However, both groups are now com- promising and partnering to overcome barriers. Our coalitions have become much broader, which allows us to present compromised solutions – already vetted by all major stakeholders – to members of Congress. If real estate and environ- mentalists can come to an agreement on energy efficiency issues, the rest should be a slam dunk, right? Lack of Legislation Not so easy in a stagnant Congress. In mid-September, I tuned into C-SPAN for the Senate floor action on the bipartisan energy legislation S 1392, also known as “Shaheen-Portman” after the two senators sponsoring the bill. It went down in flames over a con- tentious amendment offered on the Affordable Care Act. When Senate leaders could not proceed without first address- ing healthcare, the energy legislation was tabled and timelines were pushed back. The Senate instead (unsuccessfully) focused on trying to avert a government shutdown. With the debate on the debt ceiling looming, it’s unclear if or when the energy bill will get another look. While BOMA is still neutral on the Shaheen-Portman bill, we are keeping a close eye on several amendments that could swing us into support. One of these addresses the issue of data access. For years, BOMA has been searching for a fix for owners and FMs of multitenant build- ings who are unable to get the energy bills for individually metered space and are thus unable to accurately benchmark the building’s energy use. 30 BUILDINGS 11.13 We believe the solution is to encourage utilities to provide whole building aggre- gate data to building owners and remove any regulatory barriers that prevent them from providing this data (such as tenant privacy concerns). While this is actually a state/utility issue over which the federal government has limited jurisdiction, we have been working to craft legislation to expedite action. One potential amendment would task the DOE with issuing voluntary guide- lines that establish model standards for implementation of retail electric energy information access in the states. While this may not be the perfect solution, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Utilities’ Guide to Data Access for Build- ing Benchmarking to explain how local utilities can improve access to facilitate benchmarking. n Currently, the DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative continues to push forward on this issue, and the DOE is poised to launch the Energy Data Accelerator to demon- strate low-cost, standardized approaches for providing energy data for the purpose of whole building energy performance benchmarking. Partners in the project are utilities and local governments that want to help building owners gain access to energy usage data for the purposes of benchmarking. Success Despite Stagnancy Although we’re frustrated by slow con- gressional action, it’s important to note that progress is being made through other avenues. BOMA International and its coali- tion partners (including the Real Estate Roundtable, U.S. Green Building Council, and the Institute for Market Transforma- tion) continue to put this on the agenda every chance we get. In the beginning, it was obvious that very few people were aware that this was even an issue. One of our biggest barriers is lack of education, not just the tech- nological difficulties of communications issues between metering and billing in utility computer systems. The Data Access and Transparency Alliance (www.energydataalliance.org), of which BOMA is a founding member, is dedicated to presenting solutions. After years of bringing this issue before the DOE, EPA, White House Council on Envi- ronmental Quality, and anyone else who would listen, signs of progress are evident: n In June 2011, the National Associa- tion of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) passed a resolution supporting access to data. n In December 2012, A Regulator’s Privacy Guide to Third-Party Data Access for Energy Efficiency was developed as a product of the State and Local Energy Efficiency Action Network (SEE Action), facilitated by the DOE and EPA. n In March 2013, the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub) published the Energy data is coming into focus as industry groups advocate for access and benchmarking. While we wait and watch for Congress’s next move, the real estate industry and other stakeholders are gaining traction. We encourage you to do your part and benchmark buildings. Communicate with your local utility and regulatory agency when you are impeded from doing so. They must continue hearing from us. B Karen Penafiel is vice president of advocacy, codes and standards for BOMA International. She can be reached at kpenafiel@boma.org. For more information, call BOMA International at (202) 408-2662 or visit www.boma.org.