New CA Law requires some museums to benchmark their energy use

New CA Law requires some museums to benchmark their energy use

By Michaeleen Gallagher, GMI Committee Member, CAM Board Member, and CAM Past President

As California continues to lead in areas related to environmental accountability, the state’s museum community will also see new legislation and regulations that affect our operational practices. CAM’s Government Relations Committee already reviews bills that may affect museums overall. Moving forward, CAM’s Green Museums Initiative Committee (GMI) will also be looking at legislation that affects museum operations with a focus on how they relate to sustainability and the environment.

GMI will utilize CAM’s blog as a platform to share this information as well as engage in other discussions on green programming and environmental accountability in California museums. As this collaborative model progresses, we hope to increase our cross-committee approach to expand the scope of perspectives and bolster the work of all of CAM’s committees.

In this first blog post, we will highlight AB 802, a bill passed in 2015 that goes into effect on June 1, 2018. AB 802 specifically addresses benchmarking energy use and is intended to provide building owners and stakeholders with information about their building’s energy performance. In the U.S., twenty-four cities and one county are already requiring this type of annual energy benchmarking. The data provided through the benchmarking process helps utilities and governments identify areas of need when designing programs that provide financing, technical expertise, and training.

According to the California Energy Commissions (CEC), the information can also inform real estate investment decisions. Museums can take this opportunity to show leadership in operational practices, allowing us to highlight areas where we are already providing sustainable models. According to the CEC, it may also open funding opportunities and expertise partnerships to achieve increased energy efficiency and share those successes.

Note: It’s important to understand that although the bill refers to “commercial buildings,” in our conversations with the CEC, this designation is a general definition and will include museums. Eventually the regulations will include all commercial and multi-unit residential buildings in California.

How does AB 802 affect institutions in 2018?

“AB 802 requires that utilities provide whole building, aggregated energy use data to owners of commercial and multifamily residential buildings upon request, and requires that owners of buildings larger than 50,000 square feet report their buildings’ energy use to the California Energy Commission by June 1 each year.” – CEC

Institutions that meet ALL of the following criteria are included in the 2018 reporting:

  1. Have a single building OR multiple units that are sharing one energy meter.
  2. Have a total square footage serviced by that meter greater than 50,000 sq.ft.
  3. Have no residential utility account.

What is the responsibility of the utilities?

  1. Upon request of the building owner, they must provide “whole building aggregated energy use data.”

What is the responsibility of the building owners that meet the three requirements listed above?

  1. Request the energy data from their utilities.
  2. Report their buildings’ energy use to the California Energy Commissions by June 1 of each year.

How do institutions report energy data and how is it used?

  1. Submissions will be made through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, a free, online tool provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  2. This platform will track and benchmark performance of buildings as the information is submitted.
  3. Building performances will be compared and reported to the CEC.
  4. The CEC and partners are developing resources to interpret the information and provide opportunities to improve performance.
  5. The information will be publicly accessible in 2019

Who will be included beginning in 2019?

  1. Buildings with 17 or more residential utility accounts will be included in 2019
  2. Each year, buildings holding smaller square footage will be included with the intent of all buildings included in the future.

Additional information can be found at

Museums that are not currently required to participate can still opt-in by voluntarily reporting their energy data with the EPA’s Energy Star platform. This will offer those institutions the opportunity to see where their buildings rate in relation to other institutions and building types. This can help inform operational decisions that improve your energy use.

CAM’s GMI Committee will continue to monitor trends and practices that can be shared through this blog. Please stay tuned!

Michaeleen Gallagher has a B.A. in Art History and a M.S. in Evironmental Policy & Management. She has developed curriculum and programming at the Reuben H. Fleet Science and Technology Center in San Diego, The Living Desert in Palm Desert, and the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in North Carolina. She spent three years teaching in Japan, has been a symposium speaker for wildlife organizations in NC and VA; and has two published teacher guides for the IMAX™ films, The Magic of Flight and Everest, and in 2014 published the book Art & Nature: The Gardens of Sunnylands. She is now the Director of Education & Environmental Programs at Sunnylands, developing science, art programming, and sustainability policies.