Alternative Energy

Published on May 25th, 2010 | by Susan Kraemer


USGBC Locates $72 Billion Potential to Power Down American Buildings

The Obama administration has already proved to be quite nimble – despite a locked-down Senate that is wading through molasses due to the Republican filibuster – in devising ways within its power to green the US grid.

An Executive Order last year now compels all federal agencies to reduce greenhouse gases 30% by 2020, primarily by adding renewable power.  Within the Recovery Act a full $90 billion will have been invested in renewable energy and efficiency, doubling the nations renewable power supply to 16 Gigawatts by the end of 2010 when the funds have all been spent. No administration has ever done more for renewable energy and the environment.

But buildings are also a major source of greenhouse gases. The EPA says that energy use in commercial buildings accounts for 17 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of over $100 billion per year. There’s $72  billion that could be deployed to fix that, says the  USGBC.

To help green up the nations building stock, the US Green Building Council has just uncovered an additional $72 billion in untapped opportunities hidden in more than 30 existing federal programs where the administration could creatively use legal tools already at its disposal to transform America’s commercial buildings and apartments.

To show what could be leveraged to reduce the energy needed by the nation’s commercial buildings and apartment complexes, the USGBC has just published a new report: “Using Executive Authority to Achieve Greener Buildings: A Guide for Policymakers to Enhance Sustainability and Efficiency in Multifamily Housing and Commercial Buildings.”

With no legislation needed, the Obama administration could integrate energy efficiency and sustainability criteria into competitive grants and funding, “green” federal banking regulations, bolster minimum property standards for federal housing and economic development programs by including energy efficiency and sustainability standards, and improve performance standards applicable to federal buildings and leases.

The barriers so far to commercial building efficiency have been split incentives (renters benefit from lower energy bills, but only owners can implement energy efficiency upgrades), lack of money, and even perverse regulatory barriers that unintentionally deprive building owners of the incentives to reduce energy use. The report details how to solve these problems.

Some examples:

Strengthening certification standards and labels such as for Coolroofs and EnergyStar and extending them to more products and materials. Applying tough mandatory efficiency standards to components like heating systems. Making low cost loans available by removing income barriers. Providing green building education to building developers to overcome the information barrier. Making federal financing conditional on minimum levels of efficiency or environmental performance, or offering preferential financing for public agencies and individual property owners to undertake green improvements.

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