The real power behind today’s energy efficiency industry?

President Barack Obama recently pushed for increased energy efficiency in his State of the Union address.

His endorsement is a plus, no argument. But it may not be the federal government that drives the industry’s next growth spurt.

Increasingly, the push for clean energy seems to be more grassroots, from the city and community.

Consider these significant green energy trends and events:

  • Cities increasingly require that building owners evaluate and report on how well their commercial properties use energy. Officials say the results will help government create better policy. The information also is valuable in real estate transactions. Buyers get a better sense of a building’s true value. And owners of green buildings may use the information as a marketing tool when renting or selling the property. Minneapolis is the latest city to enact a reporting and disclosure rule. Public buildings must comply this year and the largest private buildings in 2014. Other cities with similar requirements are Boulder, Seattle, New York City, San Francisco, Austin, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia.
  • Massachusetts, the top U.S. state for energy efficiency and a thriving market for solar, is building its reputation community by community through a law enacted in 2008 known as the Green Communities Act. While the law has many components, a key feature is its community grant program. Cities and towns become eligible for grants if they agree to lower energy use 20 percent within five years. Communities also must streamline permitting for green energy projects, and take other action meant to keep more of the state’s energy revenues within its borders. Massachusetts is trying to become greener and more efficient in part because it makes economic sense. About 80 percent of the state’s energy dollars are paid out to places like South America, Canada and the Middle East, the sources of its fuel. State officials call this an $18 billion “lost economic opportunity.” The state wants to recirculate more of the money within its own borders “through investments in home-grown renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.” Municipalities seem to like the program. So far, 110 have signed on, representing 45.2 percent of the state’s population. 

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