Update: How COVID-19 Affects ENERGY STAR

October 2, 2020 —

Update on benchmarking and ENERGY STAR certification for U.S. commercial buildings impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

The new guidance below will allow more property teams to apply for ENERGY STAR certification while complying with the recommendations of medical experts for reducing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Please visit www.energystar.gov/covidupdates for a summary of ENERGY STAR certification guidance issued previously, as well as FAQs related to operational impacts from COVID-19.

Guidance for additional certification eligibility depends on whether your building’s operations were impacted by COVID-19.

If your building operations were impacted by COVID-19

With exceptions for some retail stores and hotels, you may now apply for 2020 ENERGY STAR certification using data through July 2020.

After extensive analysis to assess the impacts of extreme changes in operations on ENERGY STAR scores, we can now accept applications for ENERGY STAR certification with a Period Ending Date (PED) through July 31, 2020, regardless of the changes in operations which may have occurred in the building due to COVID-19. Before applying with PEDs from March-July 2020, applicants must have updated “Number of Workers on Main Shift” (or “Number of Full-Time Equivalent Workers” for hospitals) and “Weekly Operating Hours” (or “Weekend Operations (yes/no) for K-12 schools) use details as needed to reflect such changes. IMPORTANT EXCEPTION – Retail Stores and Hotels that had a period when they were completely shut down will not be eligible to apply for certification if the period covered by an application includes more than 60 days of closure. See this FAQ for more information.

For all buildings where operations have been impacted by COVID-19, if you would like to apply with a PED after July 31, 2020, we strongly recommend that you wait to apply until EPA provides further guidance. EPA will be providing this guidance on certification eligibility for periods from August 2020 and later by mid-November. Waiting to apply will decrease the likelihood of your application being placed on hold and you having to make edits to your application in the future.

If your building operations were unaffected by COVID-19

You may continue to apply using EPA’s regular certification rules.

If your application includes only time when your building was operating normally, and your site visit was conducted during normal operations (or you can reuse the site visit from a 2019 certification), you can apply now and the EPA will process your application.

If you are unsure of whether you should apply now or wait, please contact the EPA and it will advise you on the best course of action.

NEXT STEPS AND FUTURE GUIDANCE ON BENCHMARKING AND CERTIFICATION ELIGIBILITY

The EPA is continuing its assessment of the impacts of extended periods of reduced operations on ENERGY STAR scores and will provide updated benchmarking and certification guidance for periods after July 2020 in its next update planned for mid-November. While its assessment is still ongoing, it would like to inform those with K-12 schools in their portfolio that there is a high likelihood that restrictions may be required for K-12 school applications with PEDs of August 2020 and later. Any such restrictions will be described in its mid-November communication, but those with K-12 schools that qualify for certification with a PED of July 2020 or earlier may want to apply using one of these earlier dates.

To allow sufficient time to apply for certification after the mid-November guidance is issued, the deadline for 2020 certification applications has been extended to February 10, 2021. In the meantime, it is recommended that you update use details for all properties as described above and continue to enter your actual energy use data as you normally do.

March 27, 2020 —

ENERGY STAR has released new guidance about the impact COVID-19 is having on its operations. Currently, the program’s business can continue as usual, but there are some exception for commercial buildings and industrial plants. To stay up to date on what’s changing, check out the ENERGY STAR website.

Impact on applications for ENERGY STAR certification

Normally, to apply for the ENERGY STAR, a licensed professional must conduct a site visit and a verified application must be submitted within 120 of the application’s Period Ending Date. Recognizing that site visits may not be feasible at this time, the program is offering additional flexibility so that your buildings can still receive certification. See below for two options:

1.      Site visits may be completed more than 120 days after the Period Ending Date (PED). The rule that requires you to submit verified applications within 120 days after the PED for any applications with a PED after October 31, 2019 has been suspended. Therefore, you can wait to conduct the site visit and submit the application until it becomes feasible and the building resumes normal operations. Currently there is no new deadline, but the program will continue to monitor the situation and plans to update its guidance accordingly.

2.      You may be able to “re-use” your 2019 site visit for your 2020 application. If a property earned ENERGY STAR certification in 2019, it is possible that the site visit conducted for that certification can be “re-used” for the current application. More information on how this works can be found in this FAQ.

Impact on shipment of ENERGY STAR certification decals and certificates

Beginning March 16, 2020, the certification teams began working remotely without access to mailing facilities. Therefore, the shipment of ENERGY STAR certification letters, certificates, and decals has been put on hold. As soon as it is safe for workers to return to the office, ENERGY STAR will prioritize mailing out your awards packages. In the meantime, you can monitor your application’s status in Portfolio Manager (check the “Recognition” tab). For now, it will say “Approved” until it is able to resume shipments. At that time, it will say “Award Sent.”

Impact on ENERGY STAR scores and certification eligibility

Many buildings are experiencing extended periods of reduced occupancy or even closure, while others (such as multifamily properties and hospitals) may be experiencing the opposite. The team is currently working to assess the future impacts of these new usage patterns on ENERGY STAR scores and certification eligibility and will provide details and guidance for proper benchmarking in the coming weeks.