The Energy Efficiency Sector Should Take a Bow

Photo: Morguefile

Energy managers, facilities managers and everyone else in the sector should take a moment to congratulate themselves. A number of recently released studies and surveys show that investment in energy efficiency in general — and commercial buildings in particular — is growing steadily.

Of course, the good news is not all the result of the work of those in building services. It involves a recognition by the public and corporate management that energy efficiency is a good thing. On the part of management, it also is clear that saving energy ultimately saves money and burnishes the company’s image. The federal government – as well as many state and local governments – is pushing efficiency. On top of all that, exploding technology, from the Internet of Things to renewables, is enabling the great strides.

The long term trends are good. Last week, The Energy Information Administration released data from the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey. A post at The Energy Collective said that the survey is conducted every five years. This edition of the report, which assessed commercial building energy use from 2003 to 2012, found that demand had declined by 12 percent. Lighting and space heating were the biggest source of the reduction. Heating gains, the survey found, were partly due to an increase in the proportion of commercial space in warmer southern climates. Commercial space in these warmer climes rose to 39 percent from 37 percent in the 2003 survey.

It’s been a long time since 2012, but it seems likely that the trends captured in the report will continue. Steven Nadel, the executive director of The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, sees continuity. “I think the trends noted are continuing, but I’m not sure we can say they are accelerating, with the exception of the move to LED lighting, which is clearly accelerating.”  He pointed to an ACEEE post on the topic.

June also saw the release of The 2016 Johnson Control Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) survey. More than 1,200 facility and energy management executives in the United States, Brazil, China, German and India participated. Johnson Controls says that the survey revealed that “interest and investment in energy efficiency are at an all-time high.” The report was upbeat:

Fifty percent of respondents said their organizations are paying more attention to energy efficiency today than they did a year ago, with 72 percent anticipating increased investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy over the next 12 months. By comparison, 37 percent of global respondents in 2013 reported paying more attention to energy efficiency and 42 percent planned to increase investments. The results of the survey will be released Thursday, June 23 in Washington, DC at the Energy Efficiency Forum, co-sponsored by Johnson Controls and United States Energy Association.

The release has lots of interesting information. For instance, the survey found that 78 percent of global organization already have or plan to certify at least one green building. That is 27 percent higher than in 2010. The leading initiatives last year were HVAC improvements, energy education programs, building control upgrades, building system integration, on-site renewables and water efficiency upgrades, the press release says.

A third indicator of the ongoing health of the field was contained in a report from Navigant Research that covered the retrofit market for small- and medium-sized buildings of 10,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet. This, the firm noted, is a tricky area for investment because both financial obligations and eventual benefits are split between tenant and building owner.

Those traditional challenges notwithstanding, Navigant found that the category will grow from $24.1 billion billing this year to $38.6 billion in 2025. It is set to benefit from the overall success of energy retrofits. The market to retrofit bigger commercial structures with a clearer business case is nearer to saturation. This is leading those in the retrofit business to seek new customers – even those with more challenging business dynamics.

The growth will continue, according to Navigant Research Associate Christina Jung. “I think the share of the SMCB market within the retrofit market at large will grow over the next 10 years – however, not by very much, less than 1 percent,” wrote Jung, who authored the research. “I believe the biggest drivers for that growth is the sheer fact that there are so many SMCB globally in terms of number of buildings, as well as, floor space. On the other hand, the biggest challenge is that the SMCB market is very diverse. Therefore, it is difficult to figure out the best business/success model applicable to the majority of SMCBs.”

The surveys are look at different parts of the overall energy investment picture. What is consistent, however, is that interesting is high and growing and investments are following. That’s partly due to the fact that energy efficiency is a concept whose time has arrived. It also, however, is a fact that people in the sector are doing a good job of promoting its monetary and social values.

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