Environmental/Utilities Issues

May, 10 2023 Published by Toronto and Area Chapter - By Justin Tudor

Getting Out What You're Putting In

From the Spring 2023 issue of CCI Toronto Condovoice Magazine.

Getting The Most Out Of Ontario's EWRB Energy Reporting

It’s been 5 years since Ontario began phasing in Canada’s first province wide Energy and Water Reporting and Benchmarking (EWRB) program. Ontario’s EWRB program, began as a government-led initiative that aimed to improve energy and water efficiency in most privately owned buildings in the province. The program requires certain buildings to report their annual energy and water consumption, and to benchmark the data against similar buildings.

As of July 1st, 2023, the regulation requires most buildings over 50,000 ft2, including condominiums, to submit energy and water usage data to the province annually. After 5 years, the process of submitting has largely been ironed out, eased by the phase-in of building sizes. Only this year is the smallest section of building required to start reporting. With the reporting requirement addressed, how is the program faring on providing feedback to building owners? Are they getting out what they are put-ting in? The primary stated proposed benefit of the EWRB program is that it helps building owners and condominium corporations understand their energy and water consumption. By reporting and benchmarking data, building owners can identify areas where they can improve energy and water efficiency. This is done in two ways:

  1. Requiring building owners and condominium managers to focus on their own utilities and potentially reflect on their year-to-year or seasonal variations in usage.

    By identifying areas of inefficiency and implementing changes to reduce consumption, this may assist condominium corporations to save money by lowering their energy and water bills. This can have a significant impact on their bottom line, especially for large buildings with high energy and water costs.
     
  2. They might find that their building is using more energy and water than similar buildings, indicating that there may be opportunities to reduce consumption.

    This is the big promise of EWRB Regulations, that you will be able to compare your data to similar buildings, in similar Ontario regions to determine how your building is shaping up.

Where Did Your Data Go?
Data submissions are aggregated and available for review in a government published spreadsheet that’s hard to find and even harder to read. But for all the promise of the EWRB program to aid condominiums in decreasing their energy usage, there is still surprisingly little feedback on the quality and utility of the data submitted once the corporation clicks Submit and puts their data into the black box of the Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Every year, the Ontario government publishes the aggregated data of the EWRB program, where your building’s anonymized usage is published with the rest of the provinces with “easy to understand” labels like: WN_Sit_Gas_Int1, PrimPropTypSelf, and the ever important Site_EUI1.

It’s easy to criticize the way condominiums have provided the aggregated data – it takes an engineer to interpret the data and compare it to your building’s usage, which it shouldn’t. Given that it was a stated benefit of the program, the submission portal should be sufficiently robust such that your usage can be easily compared and benchmarked against other buildings. But absent that, engineers and energy planners have spent the time analyzing the results which is allowing buildings to look at multiple performance factors.

Another performance factor is comparing the data against a regional neighbour. (See below) By teasing out the aggregated data, energy planners and engineers can now assess how a building is comparing with others which are of similar type and in a similar region.

Ontario’s Energy and Water Reporting and Benchmarking program has a lot of potential, but condominium corporations should be able to retrieve the data that they were promised. It takes a 3rd party to generate the information above, and it still will not truly allow buildings, especially condominiums, to draw down their energy usage until it is made easy for them.

By providing a clear understanding of energy and water consumption and identifying opportunities to improve efficiency, this program can help lower costs and reduce the environmental impact of buildings in the province – it’s just not doing it yet. In order for the program to be successful, reporting data is key to the continued pursuit of saving money and reducing energy consumption.

One performance factor is year-over-year usage. (see below) By tracking and submitting every year, condominiums that may not be managed by a company with an energy management sector can pull their year-over-year data and usage
and compare this internally.

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