Report shows energy efficiency push could benefit Americans in multiple ways

March 5, 2012

A significant push for energy efficiency retrofits around the U.S. could generate estimated savings of $1 trillion over the next 10 years, along with creating 3.3 million job years for a wide range of skilled workers, according to a study that was released by Deutsche Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Think Progress reported that study was part of an effort to improve the financial appeal of a switch to more efficient buildings, as Deutsche Bank explored models that could facilitate the expansion of energy efficiency retrofits on a massive scale.

The study, "United States Building Energy Efficiency Retrofits," examines and calculates the economic impact that a $279 billion investment in energy efficiency could have. Along with the expected generated savings from such a project, the investment may also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 10 percent.

In the commercial buildings sector, the proposed $72 billion investment would lead to energy savings of 848 trillion British thermal units, 857,000 cumulative job years created and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 175 million metric tons of CO2 per year, according to the report.

The editors of the report noted that the successful implementation of energy efficiency programs and retrofitting of buildings would have a significant impact on the country, the commercial real estate market and the environment, but several obstacles exist.

Mark Fulton, global head of climate change for Deutsch Bank and Heather Grady, vice president of foundation initiatives for the Rockefeller Foundation noted that "mature and proven technologies, designed and manufactured by established multi-national firms, can save energy and yield significant returns when replacing older, less efficient systems."

They noted that despite the outlined impact that the use of this technology would have and the data that supports this move, the implementation of and market for building retrofits – from upgrading lights to replace heating and cooling systems – has never reached its full potential.

"In order to provide a clear understanding of this opportunity, we use this paper to establish the potential size of the retrofit market in the United States," the authors noted.

This type of market stagnation was what the U.S. Department of Energy has tried to counter in the designation of its innovation HUB for energy efficient buildings at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Dubbed the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings (GPIC), the initiative looks to stimulate investment in retrofit projects, foster a change in the commercial buildings sector and create jobs in the region.