Energy Efficiency in Buildings Top Strategy to Reduce Carbon

by | May 7, 2009

johnson-controls2Seventy-one percent of business leaders are paying more attention to energy efficiency compared to the previous year, according to a new study commissioned by Johnson Controls. Fifty-eight percent responded that energy management was extremely or very important.

When asked to identify their company’s top strategy to reduce carbon, 45 percent of executives indicated a preference for energy efficiency in buildings.

These findings indicate that business leaders in the U.S. are increasingly aware of the need for energy efficiency and its potential to reduce operating costs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions, says C. David Myers, president of Johnson Controls Building Efficiency division.

Johnson Controls is trying to do its part. The company recently installed nearly 1,500 solar panels on the northeast corner of its headquarters campus in Glendale, Wis. The solar power system is said to be the largest in the state and is part of the headquarters’ $73 million renovation and rehabilitation project. The headquarters will serve as a showpiece for Johnson Controls as it aims to persuade customers, with the help of the stimulus package, to incorporate renewable energy into their buildings.

Johnson Controls is also one of three organizations currently coordinating the $20 million retrofit of the Empire State building to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. It’s expected that the upgrades will result in $4.4 million in energy savings annually, or a 38 percent energy reduction.

However, the Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) survey of professionals responsible for energy management, conducted by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), reveals that barriers to investing in energy efficiency include limited funding, uncertainty about future energy prices, government incentives, and energy and climate legislation.

Another key finding shows that of the organizations making public carbon commitments, 45 percent identified energy efficiency in buildings as their top carbon reduction strategy. Sustainability continues as a focus for new construction projects as 38 percent are seeking green building certification, while 45 percent plan to incorporate green elements, but not certify their facilities.

The study also reveals a likely 10 percent decrease from last year in the use of facility capital budgets to fund energy efficiency projects, and a 6 percent decrease in the number of respondents planning to make investments using their operational budgets. Limited capital availability for investments (42 percent) and unattractive payback (21 percent) were cited as the key barriers to capturing potential energy savings. Nearly 50 percent of executives who oversee energy efficiency investments expect a payback period in less than three years.

The EEI research indicates that business leaders believe incentives from utilities or government will drive investment. Eighty-five percent, compared to 76 percent in 2008, said that legislation mandating energy efficiency and/or carbon reduction is likely within the next two years. Forty-four percent report that incentives are very/extremely important as they make decisions on energy efficiency, up from 38 percent in 2008.

The survey also finds that executives are considering a range of on-site renewable energy technologies including wind, solar thermal, solar electric and geothermal sources of energy. Forty-six percent are looking at solar electric, an increase of 8 percent over the previous year. Geothermal energy also received a substantial increase in interest level, up by seven percent.

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