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Energy benchmarking for municipalities

Build a better city with energy benchmarking

A municipality’s real estate portfolio may include many types of buildings, including offices, community and recreational centres, arenas and other sporting facilities, libraries, and warehouses. All of these buildings, despite their differences, have one thing in common: they all use energy, and that energy accounts for a significant part of a municipality’s operating budget.

Energy benchmarking is an effective way to reduce operating costs without compromising service levels. By tracking a building’s energy use and comparing it to the energy used by other buildings in your portfolio or across the country, you can identify both best practices and candidates for improvement.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager can help you build a better city by providing you with nationally standardized, statistically valid, Canadian data against which to benchmark your buildings’ energy use.

Some of the benefits to benchmarking your city’s facilities:

  • Lower operating costs
  • Increased accountability and transparency
  • Support for energy program and policy development
  • A greener city that uses energy more responsibly
  • Increased asset value for your real property assets

Watch this video (duration: 5:56) from NRCan to learn more about how ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager can help your municipality.


Kirk Johnson, Canada Green Building Council: Why does benchmarking play a role? When we’re benchmarking our buildings, we can understand where we are, and how we compare to our peers in the market.

Julia St. Michael, Manager of Research and Environmental Programs, Real Property Association of Canada: Collecting data really is the first step because you’ll never know if you’ve reached your target unless you start to measure.

Greg McCall, Energy Policy Specialist, City of Vancouver: Recently the city council declared that they wanted Vancouver to be the greenest city in the world by 2020. But in order for that to happen, you have to look at the existing buildings. At the City of Vancouver what we’re doing is we’re using Portfolio Manager as a tool to assess our starting point.

Graham Henderson, Senior Manager of Commercial Marketing, BC Hydro: Anybody can look at and quantify the energy consumption in their building, but being able to determine whether it’s good or bad is an entirely different and much more difficult thing to do, actually.

Narrator: Municipalities are under more pressure than ever to implement initiatives to address climate change and sustainability.As energy prices rise, as public awareness of the relationship between energy and the environment grows, as government interest and stakeholder knowledge increase, the need to increase efficiency, maintain accurate data, and keep costs down requires more focus than ever on energy performance. Fortunately, this is an area where municipalities can make a valuable contribution. Today, energy benchmarking is an essential best practice for achieving greater energy efficiency, more accountability and control. By incorporating energy benchmarking into your municipalities’ energy plan, you can create a clear path to saving energy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as you work with comparative, peer to peer, all Canadian data. We’re Natural Resources Canada, and we’d like to introduce you to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Adapted for Canadian use and conditions from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s highly successful program, this tool can help you maximize building performance through a flexible system that covers more than eighty building types covering office space, community centres, arenas, and much more. It can help you complement your existing Climate Change goals, too, becoming a key tool in any municipality’s toolkit. Listen, as building sector stakeholders talk about this all-Canadian benchmarking program.

Graham Henderson: You can’t manage what you don’t measure and having customers understand…what is good performance and having that good performance quantified in a manner that they can understand, I think that’s a key for them to be able to manage their energy in their buildings, and Portfolio Manager is an important part of that.

Greg McCall: I often speak with other municipalities and they’re all very interested in what Vancouver is doing. You can see the light bulb go on when you talk about benchmarking and what it actually provides. It’s a pretty easy concept to understand, it’s just, when you don’t realize there’s a tool out there that will allow you to assess your building while it’s being normalized throughout North America and compared with a North American set of buildings.

Julia St. Michael: So if you’re using Energy Star Portfolio Manager or if you are using other tools like the REALPAC tool you have many, many options of how to collect the data, but if you’re using a benchmarking tool you also have options of how you compare yourselves to others. So there is added value in using a national tool that allows you to compare while you’re also tracking and monitoring your energy use.

Kirk Johnson: The reason we’re very excited about the new Energy Star as it applies to Canada is that we’re working off of a Canadian reference right now as opposed to a modelled American one. And that means that we have Canadian weather, which is different from much of the States, and we also have the references that are based on a survey that was done in Canada. So we’re very excited to have that context and very excited to have that specificity as it applies to Energy Star.

Narrator: The bottom line? Portfolio Manager can power a reliable, numbers-based roadmap to energy savings. It can inform your municipality’s energy efficiency goals, give you true comparative data based on the Canadian environmental reality, and help you create targeted policies, programs and incentives. Flexible, robust, and best of all, built to reflect the reality of running buildings in our climate, ENERGYSTAR Portfolio Manager is available now, and it’s absolutely free.

Greg McCall: I think there’s five wins in this scenario. The environment gets better, the utility companies use less energy, the contractors get more work because of the retrofits, the end users end up with a less costly building, and the owner ends up with a better building that he can lease or sell so everybody, everyone benefits all down the line.

Narrator: Increase your asset value, fine-tune your control and management, and build a better city. Join the thousands of Canadian buildings using Energy STAR Portfolio Manager. Find out more today.

Municipal buildings and the ENERGY STAR score

Some of your buildings are already eligible for an ENERGY STAR score, and others will be soon. Right now, Natural Resources Canada offers ENERGY STAR scores for offices, K-12 schools, hospitals, medical offices and food stores, with new types to be added over time.

Municipal buildings not currently eligible can still benchmark using Portfolio Manager, which offers a host of other metrics, including energy use intensity (EUI). With national median EUI values available for more than 80 building types, there’s a good chance that you can find a basis for national comparison for all your buildings.

Is your municipality a member of the Partners for Climate Protection?

The Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) is the Canadian component of ICLEI’s Cities for Climate Protection network, and its members are municipalities that have committed to reducing greenhouse gases and acting on climate change. If your municipality is one of the more than 250 Canadian member cities, you may already be using the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ PCP Milestone Tool to track your greenhouse gas emissions and set targets for reducing them. Portfolio Manager can serve as a complement to the PCP Milestone Tool, helping you to track even more data about your municipality’s performance and contributions to provincial and federal government emissions and climate change targets.

Is your municipality considering mandatory benchmarking?

A growing number of jurisdictions in the United States have enacted policies requiring certain buildings to benchmark and disclose their energy use. In Canada, benchmarking, labelling and disclosure policies fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces, territories and municipalities. In July 2018, the province of Ontario became the first Canadian province to implement a mandatory reporting program – the Ontario Large Building Energy and Water Reporting and Benchmarking initiative. Some municipalities are implementing voluntary programs. Natural Resources Canada is committed to supporting municipalities and other jurisdictions in implementing benchmarking, labelling and disclosure initiatives.

Learn more about benchmarking and energy efficiency for municipalities

For more information, or to find out how we can help your municipality’s benchmarking efforts, contact

The ENERGY STAR and PORTFOLIO MANAGER names and the ENERGY STAR symbol are trademarks registered in Canada by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and are administered and promoted by Natural Resources Canada.

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