Sunday, May 15, 2016

One Building Is Saving $1 Million a Year on Energy.  What Would Happen If the Whole World Was More Efficient?

The U.S. Steel Building in Pittsburgh saves more than a million dollars a year after retrofitting for better efficiency. (Credit: AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) Click to Enlarge.
Amid all the talk about transitioning to clean energy sources, consider this:

The cleanest energy is the energy we never use.

It’s also the cheapest, which is one reason that companies are embracing energy efficiency now more than ever.  In fact, energy efficiency — now being rebranded for the business sector as energy productivity — is having a moment.

“People have been working on this topic for the last 20 to 30 years, but there still are so many opportunities that need to be unlocked,” Jenny Chu, a manager at The Climate Group, told ThinkProgress.

Chu was speaking from the Alliance to Save Energy’s annual efficiency conference, which took place this week in Washington, D.C., and where The Climate Group — an international nonprofit that works with businesses and governments to transition to clean energy — launched a new initiative, EP100.  Under EP100 companies will commit to doubling their energy productivity — that is, getting just as much done using only half the energy (or getting twice as much done for the same amount of energy — you get the idea).  That’s a big deal.  One of the major talking points against emissions reductions is that lowering our carbon footprint will ruin the economy — but efficiency is hard to argue against.

And perhaps more than other emissions-reductions efforts, there is a lot of low-hanging fruit in efficiency.  According to light bulb company Phillips, if all the world’s companies switched from old-fashioned light bulbs to LED ones, they would collectively save $94 billion in energy costs — and reduce demand by the equivalent of 371 power plants.  (For comparison, there are currently 290 active coal-fired power plants in the entire United States).

And if you’re willing to go further than light bulbs, there is more hidden inefficiency to target.  A retrofit at Pittsburgh’s U.S. Steel building resulted in $1 million worth of energy savings each year for the commercial building, according to Danfoss, another company that joined the EP100 initiative this week.  That company installed new pumps for the 64-story building’s water supply and new fans in its air circulation system.  In a case study, the building manager says that driving down energy costs has also made the building more attractive to tenants — a positive economic side effect.

Buildings account for 40 percent of the electricity used in the United States, so making them more efficient will go a long way towards reducing the country’s overall demand.  And as Chu pointed out, any money that isn’t going into electricity costs can go into something else.  In other words, energy efficiency hits the sweet spot of being both good for the environment and good for the economy.

Read more at One Building Is Saving $1 Million a Year on Energy.  What Would Happen If the Whole World Was More Efficient?

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