More than 1,500 congregations are tracking their worship facility energy performance with the free Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. Twenty-one churches, one synagogue, and one mosque have earned the Energy Star label for their house of worship based on ratings generated by the tool, which scores individual facilities against national average energy performance data. In the spring of 2013, the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will release a complete upgrade for this popular tool, now in use by more than 40,000 individual password-protected accounts that measure, track, assess, and report on the energy and water performance of more than 250,000 commercial buildings.
What will be upgraded? Most visibly, the user interface will be simpler with more streamlined functionality—think “TurboTax.” In addition, graphical reports will be easier to generate and sharing features will be improved. Other upgrades will be database architecture, system processing, and related web services, such as “automated benchmarking services” provided by various utility companies and energy service providers linked from www.energystar.gov/abs.
For those unfamiliar with Portfolio Manager, it is EPA’s free, online management and tracking tool for energy and water use and costs. By entering key building and operational characteristics, and energy or water usage data, users can achieve several “green” objectives: assess whole building energy and water consumption; track changes in energy, water, greenhouse gas emissions and costs over time; track green power purchases; create custom reports and share data with others. Working from any time period and usage baseline, return-on-investment for energy and water saving improvements can be objectively calculated and are “normalized” for weather and changes in operating hours and square footage. This feature supports facility managers, business administrators, or commercial service and product providers who need to show accurate savings for efficiency expenditures to church decision-makers or the membership.
The ratings feature also lends itself to some fun, such as friendly “stewardship competitions” to see who can earn 10%-20%-30% savings from their baseline energy use. Such a “creation care challenge” might be organized within a statewide or national denomination; within a local ministerial alliance or between youth groups, facility managers, or business administrators. (Our friends at WFX might even host a competition from one year to the next.) Any faith community that wants to challenge its members toward better financial and environmental stewardship can use the tool as an objective “score-keeper.”
How can you learn more and stay updated on the update? Energy Star is providing quarterly update webinars. You can view or download the December 2011 webinar and check out the FAQs. The next webinar in March will provide a look at the new content and features. The June webinar will provide a “sneak preview,” showing the live tool as built, including real screens for entering data. In September (during WFX 2012 in Atlanta), Energy Star will preview new features for reporting and sharing data. Finally, in March 2013, Energy Star will help users prepare for the rollout with trainings, the downtime schedule, and a final webinar. To register for the March 2012 webinar send an email to the free tech support team at EPAcongregations@energyandsecurity.com or track the upgrade at www.energystar.gov/PMupgrade.