Late Wednesday Congress passed a deal to reopen the government after a 16-day shutdown. For energy managers, the ordeal meant they had no access to the EPA’s Portfolio Manager for the past couple of weeks.
Many building owners track their energy usage with Portfolio Manager, which enables buildings to receive Energy Star scores. The EPA software is also used by eight major cities that require large buildings to benchmark their energy.
Given that Portfolio Manager is a software product, it’s unclear why it had to be taken offline during the government shutdown.
Barun Singh, co-founder and CTO of energy efficiency software company WegoWise, speculated that since no EPA employees were available to provide support, the agency probably felt uncomfortable leaving it out there.
“What happens if their servers were to get overloaded and the whole system collapses?” asked Singh. “That would be worse than an expected shutdown.”
Singh testified this week in front of the Senate’s Small Business Committee on how the unavailability of Portfolio Manager wreaks havoc on energy efficiency stakeholders. “Companies and individuals relying on these tools are being forced to defer decisions regarding building efficiency upgrades,” Singh told the Senate committee. “The shutdown has forced us to delay one contract by almost a month, since we are unable to provide the customer with a solution until the EPA tool is active again. For companies like ours, the investments we make in product development, marketing, and sales come from a very limited set of resources. We are also especially sensitive to unexpected changes in cash flow. The current shutdown adds a significant amount of uncertainty to the market, increases our risk, and makes it more difficult for us to grow our businesses.”
Unfortunately, yesterday’s legislation is, once again, only a temporary measure until 2014 when another deadline looms concerning spending and borrowing.
“The larger concern is not just of these few weeks, but of yo-yo policies,” said Singh. “We’ve seen in Washington, DC, and Philadelphia; both delayed their benchmarking reporting, citing explicitly this shutdown.”
Photo credit: Paull Young’s Flickr photostream