Building an ecosystem around energy conservation requires collaboration between a multitude of players and stakeholders, both in Ontario and globally. Like any large-scale systems change, re-imagining data’s role in the energy industry is a collaborative, iterative process that requires rapid trial and error, continuous feedback, and the ability to adapt to changing requirements and context.

This post looks at how energy data can be applied in the commercial and industrial sector for better business and real estate management.

The Green Button’s application in energy conservation seems obvious for residents looking to better manage their household energy usage—many of the first solutions developed on the standard emphasize this target audience—but the impact of the initiative can be quite large in the commercial and industrial (C&I) sector as well.

As part of the iterative prototyping that took place around the creation and adoption of the Green Button, there was a growing understanding that better access to energy data had the potential to completely change the way buildings and real estate were managed: data was integral to a systems-level change in the C&I sector.

Green Button Download My Data Schema
Green Button Download My Data Schema

The specifics of the intervention are simple: the Green Button provides building owners and managers with easy and secure access to their electricity usage information in a consumer-friendly and computer-friendly format. It acts as an industry tool that makes reporting inexpensive and easier, improves building management, and spurs innovation and market development.

Currently, the C&I sector struggles with discrepancy of data standardization in their reporting because of the varying jurisdictions and utilities involved. The Green Button makes electricity data collection easier and more cost-effective by allowing building owners and managers to collect data from all their buildings (across multiple utilities) in a consistent format and share it with third-party solution providers or compatible databases. The initiative not only streamlines the reporting process, but also improves data consistency and accuracy by removing manual data entry and building a common standard.

“The initiative in Ontario or Canada would allow our members to receive electrical consumption data in a consistent format, regardless of where their building is. It could be very significant going forward because in a lot of cases, tracking overall electricity consumption is a manual process based on the bills you receive.” John Smiciklas, Director of Energy and Environment, BOMA Canada

In recognition of how an energy data standard intervention could create widespread systems change in the C&I sector, industry associations like REALpac, BOMA Canada and Toronto, and CivicAction are supporting a wider implementation of Green Button across the province as it would considerably benefit their members. Electricity consumption data is not only used for complying with internal and external benchmarking regulation and mandates, but it is also used to better understand and manage building portfolios, inform important capital spending decisions, and guide conservation measures that save money for building owners and tenants alike. Currently, members of the C&I sector collate their electricity consumption data from multiple utilities across various jurisdictions. As this data is gathered from multiple sources, in varying formats, with different sets of assumptions that underpin consumption information, the existing process of collecting, transcribing and formatting this information across our members’ diverse building portfolios can be very time intensive, expensive and sometimes a barrier to participation.

Green Button Connect My Data Schema
Green Button Connect My Data Schema

The impact of the Green Button standard across the C&I energy system is already being felt: the US version of Portfolio Manager, an energy benchmarking tool developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and adopted by Natural Resources Canada, is set to become Green Button compatible in its next update release. Portfolio Manager is widely used by building owners and managers when participating in voluntary benchmarking initiatives (such as Race to Reduce) and environmental certifications (such as LEED).

This kind of early adoption is indicative of the potential of energy data to be an effective intervention in energy conservation across the energy system; we’re confident that it’s one early example of many to come.

Want to learn more about how MaRS Data Catalyst is working with partners across North America on large-scale systems change in the energy data arena? Check out our series on data’s role in energy conservation and smart grid transformation:

If you’re looking to learn more about the Green Button and what it means for Ontarians, check out this short video that talks about energy data and conservation:

(Feature photo of energy management technology by wistechcolleges.)