ENERGY STAR Labeling: How It All Started

Ricardo Fleury

The ENERGY STAR® program began in 1992 as a creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the goal of promoting energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The first effort of the program was awarding computers and monitors the ENERGY STAR label, which is still in effect today. The program gained traction in 1993 when President Clinton signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to purchase only ENERGY STAR labeled equipment for its offices. Building on the success of the product labeling program, ENERGY STAR launched its first commercial and industrial building certification (labeling) program in 1995.

In 1999, the rating system that remains to this day was introduced. In this system, based on building information and utility bill data, an algorithm compares performance with peer buildings across the country and assigns a score from 1-100 representing the building’s energy efficiency rating. Buildings that score over a 75 can receive the ENERGY STAR label. Since its launch 2000, ENERGY STAR’s database for energy performance has grown to become the largest inventory of building performance information in the world.


In 2000, roughly 500 buildings earned the ENERGY STAR label. By 2012, that number had grown to over 8,000 buildings. ENERGY STAR continues to incorporate new building types into the system, such as grocery stores, schools, and warehouses, further extending the pool of qualified buildings without lowering the standards of excellence required to achieve the label.

Not only has building participation continued to grow since the program’s inception, the public has also become more aware of its meaning. In 2000, 40% of Americans recognized the ENERGY STAR label. That number has since doubled (as of 2012) to 80% as more products and buildings carry the label.


Building on past successes and growing public awareness, ENERGY STAR has continued to expand its recognition efforts to complement the growth in building labeling. Programs like “The ENERGY STAR National Building Competition” and “The ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry” continue to set a high standard for leaders in industry to be recognized for their outstanding performance.

Many reasons make ENERGY STAR labeling an attractive certification for years to come:

ENERGY STAR is time-effective and economic, as it is based exclusively on energy performance data and not dependent upon sustainability initiatives that typically involve capital investment. A building can have an ENERGY STAR score immediately upon submitting the initial data set (12 months of energy data).

ENERGY STAR labeling promotes energy efficiency within a company by providing a tangible goal for energy efficiency performance and stimulating healthy internal competition. If a company receives a score for its building, it will often then seek to improve performance and see the results of its efforts reflected as the score increases. The goal is to continually advance energy performance until reaching label eligibility (ENERGY STAR score of at least 75).

As previously mentioned, with public recognition of the ENERGY STAR brand approaching universality, an ENERGY STAR label means building owners can rest assured that their outstanding energy efficiency performance is being effectively communicated to consumers. Simply speaking, people know ENERGY STAR.

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