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Energy Efficient Buildings Will Create a Better America

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Environment America

American families could cut global warming pollution from buildings by 30 percent and save about $450 every year on their energy bills by 2030 if we invest in energy efficiency today, according to a new report, Building a Better America, by Environment America Research & Policy Center. Reducing global warming pollution from buildings by 30 percent is the equivalent of taking 320 million cars off the road.

Every state in the country could see massive energy savings, including our nation’s capital city. Washington, D.C. is second in the country for its potential energy savings and could reduce energy use in the building sector by more than half.

“It’s time to build a better America by investing in efficiency,” said Environment America’s Clean Energy Advocate, Courtney Abrams. “Bold efficiency measures that slash energy use in our homes and businesses can reduce pollution and save consumers money. The best part about making energy efficiency improvements is that they pay for themselves as consumers enjoy lower energy bills and a cleaner environment year after year,” said Abrams.

Right now, 40 percent of the energy used in America goes to heat, cool, and power our buildings. And because much of this energy comes from dirty and dangerous sources like coal, oil, and natural gas, this accounts for nearly half of global warming pollution in the country. Furthermore, much of this energy is wasted, flying out of leaky doors and windows. This high level of energy consumption pumps billions of tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere and costs Americans $400 billion every year.

Building a Better America: Saving Energy and Money with Efficiency is a new report that analyzes the benefits of dramatically improving the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings, making existing buildings 30 percent more efficient and new buildings zero-net energy by 2030. The report uses government data to estimate reduced energy consumption, decreased fossil fuel use, money saved on energy bills, and global warming pollution prevented in 2020 and 2030.

Making our buildings more efficient would:

  • Reduce the projected energy use of the nation’s buildings by 30 percent by 2030.
  • Cut energy use in Washington, D.C.’s building sector by more than half.
  • Prevent the emission of 1.6 billion metric tons of global warming pollution every year by 2030, the equivalent of taking 320 million cars off the road.
  • Save the average American family of four about $450 a year by 2030.

Environment America Research & Policy Center was joined in releasing its report by Jason Hartke, Ph.D., vice president of National Policy for the U.S. Green Building Council.

“There's is no greater, more compelling and more cost-effective opportunity to save energy, cut emissions, improve energy security, and drive investment in the U.S. economy than energy efficient, green buildings,” Hartke said. “This report highlights how sound policy measures can accelerate the transformation we need towards cleaner, greener buildings today and a more efficient and resilient economy tomorrow.”

Environment America is calling on elected officials to support policies that will help us reach our efficiency goals, including:

  • Steady improvements to building codes over time so that all new buildings are increasingly efficient, culminating in a zero net energy standard by 2030, when new buildings should be so efficient that they can produce all the energy they need on site using renewable energy like wind and solar.
  • Investing in energy retrofits and weatherization to improve the efficiency of existing buildings 30 percent by 2030.
  • Supporting innovative financing mechanisms that will unleash public and private investment in building efficiency.

The federal government is leading the way. In December 2011, the Obama administration announced $4 billion in combined federal and private sector funds for investments in energy efficiency improvements over the next two years. This fund includes a $2 billion commitment to energy upgrades of federal buildings using long-term energy savings to pay for up-front costs, at no cost to taxpayers. In addition, 60 CEOs, mayors, university presidents and labor leaders have committed to invest nearly $2 billion of private capital into energy efficiency projects. They will upgrade energy performance in office, industrial, municipal, hospital, university, community colleges and school buildings.

As documented in this report, successful efficiency programs and incentives at the federal, state, and local level are already paying off. The Edge House in Boulder, Colo. was built with careful attention to energy use, by sealing up the home’s energy envelope. The house is LEED-Platinum certified and produces as much energy as it needs through a 10KW photovoltaic system.

“There are already thousands of super-efficient buildings all around the country,” concluded Abrams. “Since most buildings last for decades, investing in energy efficiency locks in savings for years to come and builds a strong foundation for the future of our environment and our economy.”

For more information, click here.

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