Commercial and residential buildings account for about 40% of US carbon emissions, including both on-site fuel use and emissions from electricity consumption. As such, any serious attempt to reduce emissions needs to tackle the problem of building energy usage. Deep energy cuts will make implementing all other clean energy strategies easier, by reducing the overall scale-up necessary for renewables and dampening the ups and downs of grid power fluctuations.
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The Infrastructure Bill takes a fairly straightforward stimulus approach to this problem by providing a large funding source to establish efficiency programs across the nation. The overall aim is to establish the administrative infrastructure needed to allow energy efficiency to pay for itself. One way to think of this stimulus is seed money. By investing a little bit in setting up efficiency programs, building owners of all shapes and sizes will be able to access the capital and technical resources they need to reduce energy consumption while ultimately netting positive financial gains.
There are several exciting things in the proposed bill that will have an impact. Many of these are focused on the state and local level, by establishing block grants, revolving loans, and training programs for energy auditors and technicians. The hope is that this investment will help local government catch up to the scale of efficiency investment that the federal government has put into its own facilities in recent decades.
At the federal level, perhaps the biggest highlight is the reinvestment in the Assisting Federal Facilities with Energy Conservation Technologies (AFFECT) program. This very popular program, started in 2014, is aimed at enabling efficiency-focused performance contracts, such as Energy Saving Performance Contracts (ESPCs) or Utility Energy Savings Contracts (UESCs). These contract vehicles allow energy efficiency to pay for itself, by providing the upfront capital and enabling repayment through energy cost savings. Sometimes these contracts need a little boost to assist with the extensive development costs, which is where the AFFECT program can help. Additionally, AFFECT funding can add measures to a project that may improve installation performance in key areas that don’t necessarily contribute heavily to energy cost savings, such as resilience.
Mason & Hanger can help our federal clients prepare for investment in energy efficiency, whether through AFFECT or other funding sources, by helping to create a retrofit project pipeline. To accomplish this, we recommend regular energy audits, every 4-5 years, of all existing buildings in our client’s portfolio. Energy audits benchmark current performance, establish future targets, and identify a project roadmap that is needed to attain these future goals. Once the pipeline is established, funding can be incorporated into agency budgets, or alternative funding through performance contracts can be developed.
Hear from Coles Jennings, PE, BEMP, LEED AP BD+C, Sr. Energy and Sustainability Engineer, as he explains how the proposed Infrastructure Bill will have an impact on providing a large funding source to establish efficiency programs across the nation.
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