This piece was originally published in the January 2017 issue of electroindustry.
Katie Weeks, LEED Green Associate, Director of Communications, Institute for Market Transformation
In nearly every major American city, buildings consume more energy than any other end-use sector, costing Americans more than $400 billion in annual energy bills. However, studies have shown significant potential to save energy and money by increasing building energy efficiency while also creating jobs and boosting local economies. The knowledge and technology exist to make buildings vastly more efficient, and increasingly cities are stepping up to lead the charge toward unlocking these benefits.
Recognizing this potential, in November 2016, 10 new cities joined the City Energy Project (CEP), a multiyear, national initiative to create healthier and more prosperous cities by improving the energy efficiency of large buildings. A joint initiative of the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the project is now working with 20 participating cities to craft and deploy suites of energy efficiency programs and policies that are tailored to local market needs in order to maximize effectiveness. Together, the potential impact is huge: by 2030, the 20 participating cities have the power to save more than $1.5 billion annually in energy bills and reduce carbon pollution by more than 9.6 million metric tons, equivalent to taking two million cars off the road for a year.
New additions to the project include Des Moines, Iowa; Fort Collins, Colorado; Miami-Dade County, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Providence, Rhode Island; Reno, Nevada; San Jose, California; St. Louis, Missouri; and St. Paul, Minnesota.
They join 10 pioneering cities who signed on to the project in January 2014: Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles, California; Orlando, Florida; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Each of the first 10 CEP cities has launched innovative, building-focused policies and programs that drive investments in energy-efficient technologies and systems, with a number of these efforts also addressing water efficiency. Six of these cities joined a growing trend to increase market awareness of how buildings are using energy by enacting energy transparency policies covering almost 12,000 buildings totaling more than 2.3 billion square feet.
Additionally, more than 1,600 buildings in these cities, representing more than 270 million square feet of space, have voluntarily joined in CEP-supported challenge programs encouraging energy efficiency improvements and recognizing leadership. Many of the pioneering 10 cities are exploring new financing models that will make over $1 billion available to finance energy efficiency improvements.
Participating cities hope to catalyze building retrofit markets by making data, information, and financing available, while engaging citizens and educating people about the benefits of energy efficiency to power demand for high-performing buildings. More efficient buildings create a win-win scenario for cities and their residents and businesses.
Policies such as benchmarking and transparency programs encourage better knowledge of how buildings are performing, recognizing that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Retrofitting buildings, which is strongly supported by the policies and programs of the CEP, incorporates new technologies and creates jobs at all skill levels. Reducing operating expenses by improving building efficiency frees up money currently spent on utility bills, so that it may be put back into local economies.
New financing models make it easier to invest in efficient, new equipment, while setting up market drivers that encourage innovation in the development and adoption of new technologies.
To learn more about the efforts of the CEP, visit www.cityenergyproject.org.