Blog to Save Energy | Alliance to Save Energy


Empty city streets.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused severe health and safety issues around the globe. It is also impacting energy efficiency in buildings in both predictable and unpredictable ways. A recent Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator Covid-19 pulse survey of 150 commercial, institutional and industrial facility executives in the U.S. this September identified unique challenges that organizations are facing in the pursuit of operating healthy and efficient buildings. One of the top challenges: although many commercial buildings remain empty, there is still a significant amount of energy usage. While it is no surprise that energy use on residential buildings has increased, it is a surprise that energy use in commercial buildings hasn’t dropped more considering the low occupancy rates.
Europe's Renovation Wave.
etween the COVID-19 pandemic, a presidential election in its final days, and will-they-or-won’t-they negotiations for the next recovery package, the European Union’s publication of its “Renovation Wave Strategy” last week may not have made much of a splash. That’s a shame, because across the pond, the strategy is delivering some of the most important building policy in decades, promising a tidal wave of energy efficiency retrofits. The Renovation Wave seeks to double retrofit rates in the next 10 years – allowing the E.U. to modernize 35 million buildings by 2030 in an effort to meet climate targets, address energy poverty, and create jobs. According to the Commission, 1% of buildings in the European Union currently undergo renovation for energy efficiency upgrades each year. Just doubling that rate to 2% would have an enormous impact on energy savings, while also creating 160,000 new construction jobs and putting the European Union on track to meet both its 2030 and 2050 climate goals.
Performance Based Utility Programs
Across the country, utilities are grappling with the challenges posed by an increasingly complex energy system. Along with their traditional arsenal of energy efficiency programs, it will be critical for utilities to optimize energy supply and demand through deep energy retrofits and enhanced demand flexibility. Performance-based program models are one way to achieve this. Recognizing the need to find ways to scale up effective performance-based programs, the Alliance’s Active Efficiency Collaborative is holding a series of virtual stakeholder workshops to explore these topics and encourage innovation and collaboration among utilities, energy service providers, and other important actors. Between two New York-focused workshops in September and an upcoming Midwest-focused workshop this Friday, the Collaborative is gaining invaluable insights about the key elements of successful performance-based programs – and we’re excited that our guiding principles to accelerate the adoption of these programs and maximize our efficiency gains will be launched in early December.
World Food Day
Every year, countries around the world come together to mark World Food Day, a day of worldwide awareness and action for ending global hunger by providing healthy and sustainable food for all. Today’s World Food Day is like no other before it: millions of people are facing food insecurity due to COVID-19, which has disrupted food supply chains and devastated economies around the world. There is no silver bullet for providing the world’s nearly 8 billion inhabitants with a reliable and sustainable food supply, but at a point where our food and energy systems are deeply intertwined, one powerful tool that shouldn’t be left in the toolbox is energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency global stimulus efforts.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates around the world have implored leaders to find solutions for the resulting economic crisis that also address climate change. We have the opportunity to build back better with sustainable stimulus measures, and energy efficiency investments in particular have a trifecta of benefits: they simultaneously cut emissions, reduce costs for consumers and businesses, and rapidly create jobs. So, seven months later, are policymakers around the globe taking heed? In the United States, federal recovery efforts so far have focused on immediate relief. A few countries, however, have moved quickly to capitalize on energy efficiency’s longer term potential. As the Alliance continues advocating for energy efficiency policies to be included in further U.S. recovery efforts, we can point to actions that several countries are taking to stimulate their economies with a hefty dose of EE.
Building retrofit jobs.
Climate is one of the most important issues facing the country right now, so it was a pleasant surprise when it was raised in both the recent presidential and vice-presidential debates. While the conversation was cut short each time, we were particularly pleased to see the issue of building efficiency retrofits hit the national stage as part of the conversation. While the Biden campaign has toted a national building efficiency retrofit plan as part of its economic recovery agenda, both President Trump and Vice President Pence raised questions about the price tag for such work. Ultimately the topic got lost in the shuffle of the conversation, so we’re here to weigh in here with some perspective.
Sustainable Energy as a Service
Before the National Banking Act of 1863 was passed in the United States, there were 8,000 different private entities issuing currency. Inefficient and unwieldy, this fragmented system was replaced by the establishment of a single national currency. Much like the early days of banking, the energy as-a-service (EaaS) sector is fragmented and unwieldy for both customers and investors. Currently, there is lighting as-a-service, cooling as-a-service, infrastructure as-a-service, steam traps as-a-service … and the list goes on. Adding to this confusion is a lack of contract standardization, which proved essential to scaling the solar purchase power agreement (PPA) market. The EaaS market, which Guidehouse Insights estimates will reach $278 billion by 2028 in the North American market, needs to evolve into a unified sector to fully capitalize on its market potential.
Energy use in empty buildings.
One of the perplexing discoveries from the COVID-19 pandemic is that the energy consumption of office buildings failed to appreciably drop when people began working at home. The Empire State Building, for example, has basically been empty, but electricity use fell only 28%. At the University of California, Davis, where I work in the Energy and Efficiency Institute, 90% of staff and students left during the pandemic, yet electricity consumption in its classrooms, offices, and labs dipped only 15%. Similar stories can be found all over the country: the workers leave, but the building keeps humming along as if they had not. The result is wasted energy, emissions, and money. What's going on?
Energy efficiency in rentals.
For many homeowners, the reason for investing in energy efficiency is simple: It will reduce their energy bills and put more money in their pockets for years. But a climate plan recently released by Senate Democrats highlights a stubborn challenge around energy efficiency in rental properties, where landlords and tenants alike are trapped in a market that ignores the value of efficiency. When landlords include the cost of energy and/or water usage in a tenant’s rent, tenants are not incentivized to watch their energy consumption. On the other hand, for the 88% of rental households that are responsible for paying the energy bill themselves, landlords have little incentive to invest in high-efficiency insulation, appliances, LED lighting, and other measures that reduce energy usage. Often called a “split incentive” or “incentive disconnect,” this has left many behind.
Energy saving tips for fall.
Cooler weather brings a whole new set of challenges for those concerned about keeping down their energy expenses. This is true now more than ever: COVID-19 has caused many households’ energy bills to rise as people spend more time at home. When inclement weather makes outdoor activities even more difficult, many households will likely see this trend worsen – unless steps are taken now to intervene. Through energy-efficient behavior and upgrades, you can not only beat the pandemic’s energy-raising effects, but permanently lower your monthly expenses. These tips will get you started.