I was at a presentation by the Department of Energy on Wednesday (hosted by the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships) where they reviewed the status of their Home Energy Score program. Like the fuel economy stickers on cars, these systems aim to create easy to understand energy ratings for buildings.
The idea is grounded in basic human behavior--if people know how much energy a building uses and how much money they can save, they will purchase more energy efficient homes and/or invest in energy efficient retrofits. Several cities have begun to harness the power of energy transparency for commercial buildings through benchmarking laws. The Institute for Market Transformation has a map of jurisdictions with these laws here.
However, while long called for, this type of program has not really gotten off the ground for small commercial or residential buildings. The resistance has been strongest from the National Association of Realtors, who believe that such information would prejudice buyers against certain houses. The National Association of Realtors' position on energy efficiency and disclosure is available here.
There are really only two ways to overcome this resistance--make the disclosures mandatory as part of the owner's disclosures or to make them so common that purchasers demand them.
Interestingly, some states, like Connecticut and Vermont, are considering incorporating these ratings into their utility energy efficiency programs. Perhaps this is a way to get a sufficient number of houses benchmarked that it becomes a commonplace part of residential transactions.
It would be even more interesting if states made residential benchmarking part of their programs under the new Clean Power Plan (the existing power plant carbon emissions rule). That would help to reach the "tipping point" for residential energy use disclosure.