Enlightening Efforts in Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings

Enlightening Efforts in Energy Efficiency and Cost Savings

It seems appropriate to close out the Hanukkah festival of lights with a series of articles about the energy saving potential of replacing our nation's inefficient lighting.

Lighting was the first area of energy efficiency that I got really deep into and is the place I always begin my hunt for "Grandpa's $20 bills." As technology improves, lighting power density allowances in building codes continue to decline and the efficient lighting requirements in LEED CI continue to increase. However, regardless of the improvement in light source efficiency, we cannot ignore good design as the crucial element for successful low-energy lighting.

Starbucks has just completed a two-year process of replacing incandescent and halogen lamps in its stores with LEDs and is expected to reduce lighting consumption by approximately 80 -- yes 80 -- percent. These savings are expected to amount to nearly $.60 per square foot -- a huge sum when multiplied over Starbucks' portfolio.

On top of this, it is quite likely that an additional $.10-$.15 a square foot of HVAC savings -- principally cooling -- will come on top of that, after accounting for increases in heating needs in colder climates. These calculations concur with the findings of the UNEP, which launched its "en.lighten initiative" last week in Cancun, Mexico. UNEP found that efficient lighting could replace the equivalent of 26 large-scale coal-fired power plants in the U.S. alone.

No doubt that the dozens of facilities chosen to receive $21 million worth of technical support for energy efficiency from U.S. national labs, which is funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will begin with lighting as well. These 24 projects, located in over 15 states, will receive between $200,000 and $1.2 million depending upon the size and scope of the project. Not surprisingly, there are no healthcare facilities on that list because as Greenbiz.com Managing Editor Matthew Wheeland reports, energy efficiency is still a very low priority in the healthcare field, even though it appears that every dollar of cost savings reflects up to a $25 boost in revenues.

One of the main challenges appears to be a hyper-sensitivity to first cost, which has approximately an order of magnitude more importance (83 percent to 7 percent) than sustainability.

Our top story this week is that after four years and at least twice as many modifications to the sustainable wood credit in LEED, the members of the consensus body convened on this topic voted to reject the proposed modifications, which means that the status quo language is preserved.

Although a majority of the people voting on the topic approved of the new benchmark (55 percent voted in favor; 42 percent opposed it), it wasn't a sufficient majority to change the rule. Ironically, a coalition of people who felt that the credit went too far joined with those who felt it did not go far enough to kill the initiative.

My guess is that the wood credit will be revisited during the 2012 revision of LEED. I always knew that this would be a tough issue to address and my hat is off to USGBC for not caving to interests on both sides and for sticking to its process in spite of an apparently never-ending effort.

Speaking of never-ending … as yet another disappointing week of global climate negotiations limps to a close, Accenture's Bruno Berthon gives us some hope that, while our so-called leaders fiddle, others much closer to the problem are implementing solutions on a day-to-day basis. By "others" I mean cities. Now that our world has become predominantly urban, it seems appropriate that leadership come from the trenches, since our putative "generals" are too busy arguing over their seating at the banquet table.

More evidence of the "blessed unrest" that Paul Hawken has written about so eloquently comes from the GLOBE Alliance, which released its COP-16 Call to Action that calls for the international community to recognize and invest in greening the built environment as a principal strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. GLOBE recommends improving access to financing, building technical and implementation capacity, and adopting common metrics that provide the foundation for integrated approaches across the planet. These actions are necessary to provide equitable access to sustainable building services for all of the world's peoples.

More tools you can use from your friends at GreenBiz.com and its sister sites: Paul Baier of Groom Energy provides readers with a useful primer on energy management software solutions to help navigate the often-confusing and rapidly proliferating field. Check it out!

This week's Look-Grandpa-I-picked-up-the-$20-bill-you-said-was-fake-but-it's-real! award goes to Shari Shapiro for her excellent summary of the green job impact of stimulus funding, which shows that green stimulus investments are among the most cost-effective ways to spend the Recovery Act dollars.

According to Shapiro's analysis, the nearly $16 billion that went into green stimulus programs at the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the General Services Administration produced nearly 65,000 jobs at an average cost of less than $250,000 dollars per job, which includes all of the materials and secondary costs of performing that job, i.e. bricks and mortar. If one assumes that the materials costs of green buildings are consistent with the LEED 45 percent of project cost default for building materials, then the green building related jobs cost under $140,000 each, which is a pretty efficient use of funds when one considers the on-flowing job benefits that are not quantified.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user LadyDragonflyCC - Turkey Time!!!!