Energy efficiency study shows apartments could save money through upgrades

January 30, 2012

Energy efficiency upgrades in U.S. apartment buildings could cut energy bills in the country by almost $3.4 billion annually, according to a new report from think tanks CNT Energy and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

The estimated savings includes $2.03 billion in potential electricity cuts and $1.34 billion in natural-gas savings from retrofits such as more efficient appliances, lighting and air-and-water-heating systems, according to Forbes.

The report outlined how energy use in multifamily buildings can be reduced substantially, as many cost-effective upgrades can achieve savings of 15-to-30 percent in buildings with five or more residential units. When looking at 2010 national average energy prices, the full expansion of efficiency upgrade programs could translate into annual savings of $3.4 billion.

"Energy efficiency upgrades provide a solution by improving the bottom line for multifamily building owners, decreasing pressure on rents, decreasing financial risk and improving tenant comfort," according to the report.

The report addressed how some of the energy efficient technology may be expensive, in terms of up-front costs, but the long-term benefits are proven to help building owners and their tenants.

"Maximizing energy efficiency is a win-win for apartment residents, building owners, energy utilities and our energy infrastructure," Doug Bibby, President of the National Multi Housing Council, said in a release from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. "This report offers excellent ideas that we hope spur further cooperation between multifamily owners and utilities to create a more efficient partnership."

According to the report, states across the country vary widely in their commitment to utility energy efficiency programs and there is a significant market for investment that would help building owners and tenants in both residential and commercial buildings.

The report notes that every state can improve, but certain ones like Florida, Illinois, Texas and the District of Columbia stand to gain the most from adopting programs to support energy efficient buildings.

The regional opportunities within the energy efficiency sector vary, due in part to a lack of focus and resources in specific areas. Others, like the Greater Philadelphia region, will be an epicenter of progress for the energy efficient building industry.

Philadelphia is the home of the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC), an effort that was designated as an innovation HUB for the sector by the Department of Energy.

Headquartered at the historic Philadelphia Navy Yard, the GPIC relies on the significant building stock in the area, along with the high number of professionals and students coming out of the region.