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The good, the bad and the ugly of Energy Benchmarking

Many corporations “benchmark” their performance on everything from stock price to marketing performance to operational efficiency. Benchmark is a common term used whenever we want to compare ourselves to another similar population-like other companies of similar size in similar industries-to see if we are doing better or worse than average.

The Good: Normally, this is type of measurement can give us excellent information.  In determining the energy efficiency of your company or building you can compare facilities, set energy savings goals and communicate to stakeholders.

The Bad: However, when selecting an energy goal for your building, there are a couple of things that you should be aware of to make sure that you are comparing your building to the right benchmark, setting achievable goals and still challenging your company to save energy.

The Ugly:

  • Current energy benchmarks are based around total average energy use in a sample of standard buildings. To start with accurate energy use figures calculate and compare your energy use in BTUs (or MJ) per square foot (or square meter) and ensure that all energy sources (electricity, gas, propane and even wood) should be included in benchmark.
  • Unfortunately many energy benchmarks are calculated based the average energy use of similar buildings and industries.  Remember that “average” is not necessarily “good” and these benchmarks do not set a high standard for energy goals or energy reduction.   To set a goal that will truly make you an energy saving leader, make sure that you compare performance against (1) your facility’s current energy use 2) comparable industry benchmarks and 3) best in class energy use.  This will help you set a goals that is a reach but achievable.
  •  Last, energy benchmarks should be divided into “defined areas” within buildings.  There are very few buildings that have a single use.  Many are used for office, storage, manufacturing and possibly a small data center.  It is impossible to benchmark and average building with so many uses and configurations! In order to be meaningful, benchmarks need further division into the various functional elements of a building.  Examples include: data centers, office environment, laboratories and industrial processes.  This also allows for focused on specific functional areas in goal setting and focused energy reduction.

Now that you are armed with information and know what to look for, I encourage you to take the first step with a basic assessment of your building with this FREE on-line tool  and good luck on your benchmarking journey!

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  • hello,
    I am interested in any ROI data or assessments for energy efficiency that can be used in industries in the emerging markets – South East Asia, Africa – Specifically looking at Food and Agriculture – Palm Oil industry, Oil and Gas.

    • OOPS! looks like the link above for the building tool and the assessment are not working. Please advise.


    • Brandi McManus

      10 years ago

      Good question – because these are emerging areas, there is probably a lack of government data available to benchmark against. Were these plants designed in the region or in US/China? If they were designed elsewhere, perhaps you can locate benchmark data in those countries. To calculate ROI, you will need to identify energy improvements and balance cost vs payback. Perhaps this document from the China Energy Group on Energy Assessments of Industrial Facilities will help.

  • Nick Blandford

    10 years ago

    Hi Mav – Thanks for the heads up on the broken link in the blog post.. It should be fixed now.


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