Just before the holiday’s we wrote how the German government has committed substantial funds to energy efficiency retrofits, and there is similar good news from the US. President Obama, together with former President Bill Clinton, announced recently that the US government had committed $4 billion in funding to complete energy upgrades in federal and private sector buildings over the next two years. This funding is part of the Better Buildings Initiative which has set a goal of improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings by 20% by 2020, thereby reducing energy bills for American businesses by $40 billion per year and potentially creating 114,000 jobs.
The Better Buildings Initiative will have several components, including administrative actions, legislative proposals, and a challenge to the private sector called the Better Buildings Challenge. The executive action includes a spending of $2 billion in performance-based contracts over the next two years. The proposed legislative actions cover things like flexible tax incentives for commercial building energy upgrades and a Race to Green competitive grants program for states and cities.
The Better Buildings Challenge will roll out a suite of activities, including the following:
- Commitments from 60 major CEOs, universities, mayors, labor leaders, and other organizations to participate in the challenge.
- Allocation of $2 billion in financing support for building energy upgrades in 1.6 billion square feet of commercial and industrial space, including commitments from companies like Best Buy, SuperValue, and Walgreens to implement cost effective upgrades. This also includes financing options from institutions like Citi, Green Campus Partners, and Transcend Equity in the form of direct investments and innovative financial products.
- Commitments from 300 manufacturing plants to improve their energy efficiency, including firms such as Alcoa, Briggs & Stratton, and Nissan North America.
The reaction to this news from the USGBC was very positive, which is not surprising given that they strongly encouraged the White House to use its executive authority to make greener buildings a reality. Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO, and founding chair had this to say:
“The Administration is tapping into tools already at its disposal to enhance the energy efficiency and sustainability of the nation’s multifamily and commercial buildings – all without seeking new funds or authority from Congress. By directing these funds to invest in high-performing energy efficient and sustainable buildings, the federal government will stimulate significant new “green” investments and job creation while saving taxpayer dollars, increasing energy security, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and create healthier working environments.”