“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” – Lord Kelvin
It has become more or less a general consensus that building energy efficiency is one of the best forms of renewable energy. Improvement of energy efficiency in buildings usually requires the following steps prior to any actual implementation works: measuring where a building stands in terms of energy efficiency, reporting measurement results using a recognized protocol, benchmarking performance against comparable buildings and assets, and setting realistic targets for improvement.
Measurement and reporting thus set the cornerstone for all other efforts that lead to the final realization of improved energy efficiency. Those who can foresee the benefits of efficiency gains may take initiatives, but not everyone has this foresight and not having a clear picture of the current status or how their buildings compare with the peer group usually means business as usual and missing opportunities with good payback.
Governments do have a role to play. Many governments and statutory boards across the region, such as Australia and Singapore, have been actively promoting measurement and reporting of building energy use and developing benchmarks for fair comparison. Once these first steps are done, whether voluntarily or as part of a mandatory requirement, there will be better visibility of what is achievable and building owners are more willing to adopt energy conservation initiatives.
Decoupling economic growth with increase of energy use has been a key problem China is trying to figure out a solution for, and new policies and standards rolled out in the first decade of this century have already seen good rewards. Two of the latest efforts to rein in the growth of building energy use are from the municipal governments of the largest cities in the country. The mechanisms are different in Beijing and Shanghai, but both schemes target the thousands of largest institutional and commercial buildings by setting up platforms and mandating facility and system level energy data reporting. It is also speculated by some that once they are up and running some form of energy/carbon trading scheme may follow that uses penalties collected from the worst performing buildings to reward the best performer, so as to create a self-sustained incentive for continuous improvement.