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BEPS Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the Building Energy Performance Standards?

 

The Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS) were set forth in Title III of the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018. The Act states that, starting in 2021, owners of buildings over 50,000 square feet that do not meet a specific energy performance threshold will be required to improve their energy efficiency over a 5-year compliance cycle. The standard will be “at least” the local median ENERGY STAR score by property type (or equivalent metric).

 

What is this new scorecard I received in the mail?

 

In Fall 2019, DOEE sent out its first Energy Benchmarking DC Scorecard, ranking a building’s energy performance against similar property types and providing a high-level estimate of potential cost savings. This is the first indication of where your building’s energy performance ranks in the District. If you are interested in receiving a digital copy of your scorecard, you can request it by completing the Scorecard Request Form  and emailing it to [email protected].


When do the standards go into effect?

DOEE will establish the first BEPS for privately-owned buildings 50,000 square feet and District-owned properties 10,000 and above by January 1, 2021. Privately-owned buildings between 25,000 and 49,999 square feet will be held to the standard starting January 1, 2027. Privately-owned buildings between 10,000 and 24,999 square feet start on January 1, 2033.

What if my building does not meet the building energy performance standard?

Building owners will be able to choose amongst multiple paths to achieve compliance:

  • a performance pathway

  • a prescriptive pathway

  • other compliance paths established by DOEE

The details for these pathways will be determined by DOEE with the assistance of the BEPS Task Force in 2020 and will be published before the standard goes into effect.

What is a compliance cycle?

The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 gives the building owner 5 years to choose a compliance pathway, perform the necessary improvements, and report its success to DOEE.


What is the performance pathway?

The performance pathway will require a building to demonstrate a greater than 20% decrease in normalized site energy use intensity (total energy consumed on site per square foot) averaged over the last 2 years of the 5-year compliance cycle, as compared to the normalized site energy use intensity averaged over the 2 years preceding the first year of the 5-year compliance cycle. For example, with the first compliance cycle, DOEE will compare the average normalized site energy use intensity from calendar years 2019 and 2020 to the average normalized site energy use intensity from calendar years 2024 and 2025.

What is the prescriptive pathway?

The prescriptive pathway will list cost-effective energy efficiency measures for the building owners to implement that will have savings comparable to the performance pathway. The final list of measures will be determined by DOEE with the assistance of the BEPS Task Force in 2020 and will be published before the standard goes into effect.

Can there be different prescriptive paths for different building types?

The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 calls for a prescriptive pathway, without specifying what measures need to be included in that pathway. DOEE will determine those specifics through the rulemaking process and will determine at that time how to best structure that pathway.

What is the timeline for the implementation of BEPS?

The first standard will be set by January 1, 2021. In 2020, DOEE will be working with input from the BEPS Task Force and other DC government agencies to establish the rules and policies that will drive the program. If you are interested in staying up-to-date on the activities of the BEPS Task Force, please sign up for the newsletter. Notes from the meetings will be posted regularly on the BEPS task Force page.

Do District-owned buildings have to comply with BEPS?

Yes. Just as in the benchmarking program, all District-owned and District-instrumentality-owned buildings 10,000 square feet and over must comply.

How will a building standard be set for universities and hospitals as they usually benchmark energy use at a campus level?

The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 specifics that “DOEE shall establish campus-wide energy performance standards for post-secondary educational institutions and hospitals with multiple buildings in a single location that are owned by a single entity.” Under this clause, DOEE will take into consideration the existence of historical buildings on a campus, the diversity of building use on a campus, and any zoning regulations or master campus plan considerations when developing the campus-wide standard. At this time, DOEE is engaging with owners and managers of campus properties and relevant stakeholders on how to best establish a campus standard.

How will BEPS affect older or historic landmark buildings?

There is a common misconception that the principles of sustainability and green building design are at odds with those of historic preservation. Historic buildings are often more energy-efficient than modern construction. In fact, studies have shown that buildings constructed before 1940 require less energy consumption for heating and cooling than houses built during the subsequent 35 years. Additionally, building systems and components, like HVAC or lighting, that do not contribute to the historic character of a building, could be updated without triggering historic review. Check out the DC Office of Planning’s Sustainability Guidelines for Older and Historic Buildings for more information.

What assistance will be available to building owners to help figure out the best path to comply with the new standards?

Currently, a building owner can request technical and incentive assistance from the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU). With the assistance of partners, DOEE is also supporting the development of a high performance building hub that will serve as platform for collaboration across the District’s building industry.

What incentives or services are available to help me pay for the necessary upgrades?

The Act establishes additional funding for and expands the uses of the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund, the source for many of the energy efficiency programs in the District, including those run by the DC Sustainable Energy Utility. The Act also sets aside dedicated funding for the District’s new Green Bank. Additionally, the District is home to the nation’s oldest Property Assessed Clean Energy program (DC PACE). DOEE will be working with these entities to ensure that the right services and offerings are in place for building owners to finance the upgrades needed to comply with BEPS and achieve the District’s ambitious energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals.

What is the best way to assess the financial impact of compliance with the new regulation?

The cost of energy efficiency upgrades will vary from property to property depending on existing operations and maintenance levels, previous capital improvement projects, the types of mechanical systems present. As a first step, building owners could engage an energy service provider to conduct an energy audit of their building. Check out the Department of Energy’s Guide to Energy Audits for more information about the process.

Will fines be prohibitive enough that a building owner will decide it is more economical to pay the fine than do the upgrades? How will fines be levied?

The fine structure has not been determined yet and will be published in the final rules for the program. DOEE looks forward to working with members of the BEPS Task Force in 2020 to determine the structure and amount of fines that will be levied on building owners that fail to comply. As with any enforcement program at DOEE, the ultimate goal is compliance. In order to achieve compliance, the fines will need to be set at a level in which the cost of non-compliance outweighs the cost of compliance. Thus, we anticipate that the fines will be substantial enough that a building owner would not simply pay a fine to DOEE in lieu of implementing the cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades and achieving the required energy savings.

Will building owners be able to apply for an exemption?

DOEE shall establish exemption criteria for qualifying buildings to delay compliance for up to 3 years if the owner demonstrates, to the satisfaction of DOEE, financial distress, change of ownership, vacancy, major renovation, pending demolition, or other acceptable circumstances.  This exemption will be part of the rulemaking process in 2020.

How will the compliance period be impacted if there is change of ownership of a building during the 5-year period?

Details around a building changing ownership mid-compliance period have not yet been determined. DOEE will provide guidance for this situation as part of the rulemaking process in 2020. 

How will solar be counted in the BEPS program? Will there be possibility for community solar or other off-site solutions?

The Building Energy Performance Standards will be based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR score. The ENERGY STAR score is a rating system that grades a building’s energy performance compared to the national building stock. In order to provide a fair and equitable comparison, a building’s site energy consumption must be converted into source energy. Since the ENERGY STAR score must use generalized national source factors, there are no means to account for localized off-site energy producers like community solar. No matter where you purchase your off-site energy from, ENERGY STAR applies the same national source factor. As a result, off-site purchases will not help compliance with BEPS. However, installing solar or other renewable energy sources ON-SITE could improve your ENERGY STAR score, since they have their own national source factor that is lower than the grid purchased electricity national source factor. The improvement in your ENERGY STAR score and source energy consumption could then increase the likelihood that your building meets the minimum threshold of performance. Click here to review an example of this benefit.

Has DC considered a greenhouse gas emission performance standard instead of focusing on energy?

By January 1, 2023, DOEE is required to publish a report assessing whether the Building Energy Performance Standard should be revised to a standard based on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and if so, recommend a method and timeline for doing so, including any statutory changes needed.

How can I learn more or participate in the rulemaking process?

Contact TTY: 
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