The IPMVP blog has an interesting post from John Cowan, Chairman EVO regarding the misguided role of benchmarking. The argument is based on the notion that benchmarking is at the end of the day a pretty pointless exercise.
It is a good question since all most every energy audit RFQ demands a benchmark, even in sectors when a benchmark for that business type is not published, you need an apples to apples comparison. Comparing a hotel to commercial building is clearly pointless, hotel to hotel is certainly feasible, however comparing a hotels with integral casino, and shopping mall, etc. to those without is just futile.
Clearly he key advantage for a using benchmarking – its a shortcut, giving management access to simple index so that they can easily grasp their energy situation without delving into kwh charts. The reality of modern life is that we all need shortcuts, in the financial world listed companies are compared based on debt/equity ratios, P/E ratios, etc. it is not the full picture, its a snapshot summary for the finance side of particular business and practitioners know these need to be used wisely.
Studies have shown us already that merely public posting of neighbours energy bills creates a competitive environment in the neighbourhood to lower energy consumption. So there are needed, if only for self comparison, but practitioners need to apply then carefully.