In a gala session at the National Building Museum, Virginia Tech and partners announced the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Greater Washington.
The goal is to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 to 50% from existing buildings”, using financing for energy efficiency and have the energy efficiency savings provide more than enough money to pay back the loan.
Sound familiar to anyone? (Reminder: Energize America’s Energy Smart Communities Act.)
This is a great initiative. The type of project that can be replicated across the country and pushed aggressively to significantly cut existing buildings’ energy use and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.
At a kickoff event at the National Building Museum, Virginia Tech President Charges Steger said, “Climate change is a global problem that must be addressed locally. There are many old structures in greater Washington that are ready to be audited and retrofitted, but until now there has been very little incentive and few resources to drive change.”
Quite roughly, buildings account for about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. And, well, sadly, US buildings are very (notoriously, even) energy inefficient. Are wasteful energy hogs, actually. And, the steps to reduce that energy use are relatively straightforward and cost effective (including at the home owner level. See Mem’s I got stuffed (with photos) about adding cellulose insulation). Now, there are a variety of challenges toward going toward more energy efficiency, to taking the path of harvesting profitable Negawatts. What do we mean by profitable? Well, simply put, we are so inefficient that the cost of saving a kilowatt hour (kwh) is roughly half the cost of producing even coal electricity. And, we can cut US electrical use by 10s of percent (debatable — probably 15-40%) within that “cheaper” space. But, what are some of the obstacles?
* Structural: Who builds building often doesn’t own it. Who owns it often doesn’t pay to run it (tenants). And, who pays for it is often not structured to separate out different cost lines. (Investment for future savings is harder to do than pay that utility bill.) And, “capital” expenses are deducted over years while operating expenses can be deducted upfront.
* Conceptual: Too many people don’t see the opportunity space for “profit” via energy efficiency. (Many ‘energy efficiency’ packages have payoffs in the 30+% range, well above most companies / investment planners threshhold for good investments.) And, people often speak just to the efficiency in dollar terms not realizing that that efficiency can often have other payoffs — like, if done right, a healthier interior environment (with higher productivity, fewer illnesses, happier people, etc).
* Financial: Going the efficiency route often (not always) takes investment. That upfront investment is, almost always, in competition with other scarce resources.
This initiative tackles these. There are educational elements to inform people of value and the existing financing removes tremendous obstacles.
One truly can make (or save) lots of green by Going Green. There is tremendous opportunity space for cost savings by making buildings more energy efficienct.
The VT initiative seeks to take advantage of that ‘negawatt’ opportunity space. There is, already on the table, $500 million committed to this effort by the fianancing house Hannon Armstrong (which is involved with a similar project, globally, with the Clinton Foundation as part of the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI)) and Pepco Energy services, which will be doing energy audits and will do retrofitting work. Virginia Tech will be doing “unbiased” facilitation” and research. And, there are public (such as Arlington County, VA) and private building owners partnered with the effort already.
“The goal of this partnership is to turn the metropolitan D.C. area into one of the nation’s leading green cities,” Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger said.
Now, the above quote comes from the Washington Post story on the plan which, as too often with journalists, creates misleading impressions:
The idea behind the programs is that saving energy is still far cheaper than making it from such renewable sources as wind and solar power.
True but not truth. In fact, it is “still far cheaper than making” new electricity from any energy source.
VT is doing its part
to help make America
Energy Smart.: Are you doing
your part to
- DC is not the first (and I hope not the last) area to have such an initiative. There is, in addition to the CCI, Cambridge, MA’s $100 million Energy Initiative.