In its third year working in Michigan, starting with Southwest Michigan, Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) has firmly rooted itself in the state’s benchmarking efforts. CEE and Consumers Energy are partnering with the City of Kalamazoo and large commercial buildings to benchmark their energy use. Required in over 40 jurisdictions in the U.S., benchmarking is a best practice in energy efficiency that combines building attributes (e.g., square footage, year built, etc.) with total energy use to generate useful tracking metrics, such as ENERGY STAR Score and energy use intensity. The program, Kalamazoo Energy Collaborative (KEC), highlights the importance of partnerships between utilities and local governments in Michigan to meet their shared climate goals.
Last year, the pilot encompassed commercial buildings over 20,000 square feet within the City of Kalamazoo. 2022 became a successful year of outreach, engagement, and interest in the program with the work of a dedicated program manager and CEE’s first Michigan-based employee. With a steep goal of 34 enrolled buildings by the end of the year, the pilot necessitated an all-hands-on-deck approach. Thanks to the official KEC launch event in June 2022, interest surged. Benchmarking proliferated in Kalamazoo’s commercial building community, which led to the KEC exceeding its goal to enroll and benchmark goal 35 commercial building champions by year-end.
By continuing to build partnerships and pursue bold ideas, the KEC has proven vital to Southwest Michigan. From providing basic benchmarking to complex energy use data to its customers, the program has put both the city and utility ahead of the benchmarking trend. Expanding to encompass the County of Kalamazoo in 2023, the program is generating more interest among customers who were unable to enroll previously. The KEC now boasts 52 participating buildings.
Outside the program’s geographic boundaries, however, utility customers continue to clammer for access to energy use data. Large hospital and school systems, universities, and corporations are among those interested in benchmarking, indicating to Consumers Energy, the City of Kalamazoo, and CEE that there are many more investments to be made and benefits to reap from continuing to benchmark Michigan’s built environment.