What You Need to Know About California Energy & Water Benchmarking


Benchmarking involves measuring performance and comparing it to peers using energy and water consumption data. Benchmarking offers an established framework to:

  • Strategically assess the current performance of your buildings versus comparable buildings.
  • Identify trends by comparing current and past performance.
  • Discover areas of waste, in terms of energy and dollars.
  • Unlock potential savings.

In sum, benchmarking provides building owners with a process to understand—and improve—their buildings.

Why do I have to benchmark?

The state of California and the California Energy Commission (CEC) created a statewide energy benchmarking program known as Assembly Bill 802 (AB802) to help property owners and the public better understand their buildings.

Similar to many U.S. states, California is adopting this new benchmarking law to help meet their goal to be 100% renewable by 2045. In order to meet that goal, owners first need to understand their energy consumption to make informed decisions on how to mitigate their energy use. It’s extremely difficult to gauge how impactful the implementation of solar photovoltaic (PV) or heat pump water heaters might be at a property until you have an accurate baseline of consumption and cost data.

This data provides real benefits and a first look into potential energy and water savings. And, if you are a building owner in California, you have to comply with this law.

Where do I start?

You must collect and submit a full 12 months worth of utility data to ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager by June 1 of this year if your property meets any of these criteria:*  

  • It is a building above 50,000 square feet of floor area.
  • It is a garden-style property with multiple buildings on shared meters where the cumulative floor area is above 50,000 square feet, and the combined buildings have more than 17 residential utility accounts.

According to the CEC, the definition of a “utility account” is a proxy for the number of units at the property.

Most building owners in other jurisdictions prefer to use a service provider or software to collect, analyze, and submit the data on their behalf, while some will tackle it on their own.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure that you are getting the most out of compliance. Rather than just submitting data, you can use benchmarking as a strategic tool to unlock areas of opportunity for energy and water efficiency improvements and savings for your portfolio.

There are several options available for you to get help. Some simply collect and push data into Portfolio Manager, providing a base level of compliance with AB802. Others will help you analyze the data and provide clear, actionable steps. Bright Power’s EnergyScoreCards platform falls into that second, more comprehensive category. EnergyScoreCards comes with a dedicated Energy Analyst who takes care of submitting benchmarking data for you, works with you to identify the best opportunities for high impact improvements and projects with a strong return on investment. Once those improvement projects are completed, you and your analyst can measure their savings.

Remember, There are Additional Requirements for Certain Municipalities

San Francisco, Los Angeles, Berkeley, San Diego, and San Jose all have local energy benchmarking requirements, with more municipalities, like Brisbane, on the horizon. The good news: if you comply with local benchmarking requirements, you will automatically meet the state’s requirements.

San Francisco requires commercial, non-residential owners to send Annual Energy Benchmark Summaries on April 1. Commercial buildings with at least 10,000 square feet of heated or cooled space must be benchmarked for energy and water usage every year, and complete energy audits every five years.

Los Angeles requires buildings 20,000 square feet or larger to benchmark their energy and water usage annually on June 1. Starting in 2020, the city will require covered buildings to meet certain energy and water efficiency targets, or alternatively, go through the retro-commissioning or energy and water audit process.

Berkeley requires buildings 25,000 square feet or larger to benchmark energy annually on July 1 and complete energy audits every 5 years. The city will continue to expand on this requirement; buildings 15,000 square feet or larger will need to comply in 2020.

San Jose, as of 2019, will require all buildings 50,000 square feet and above to report energy and water usage data by May 1. In 2020, the square footage threshold will move to 20,000 square feet. The city has yet to release their Covered Buildings List for this year, so stay tuned!

San Diego recently passed an ordinance requiring commercial properties to report energy usage by June 1, 2019. The ordinance uses the same criteria as AB802 to define a covered building 50,000 or more square feet, and no residential units. Multifamily properties will be required to report beginning in 2020. It is important to note that the City of San Diego has not yet applied for an exemption with the CEC, so building owners with properties in San Diego will need to report energy data both to the City and to the State separately.  

The Deadline Is Coming Up—Fast!

The state’s June deadline is a lot closer than you think. And San Francisco commercial buildings owners have only a short period of time to meet the city’s April 1 deadline.

Covered buildings across the state must submit their energy benchmarking data by June 1 to be in compliance and avoid penalties—up to $2,000 per day of non-compliance

Not sure what to do next? Contact us today. Our team of energy and water experts will help you understand the next steps.


*The covered buildings under AB802 also include buildings without residential utility accounts, and buildings with five or more active utility accounts, residential or non-residential.