Energy retrofits could save $41 billion a year

Research analyst calculates how much must be spent to update U.S. commercial real estate versus the resulting savings in energy bills.

If all the commercial buildings in the U.S. that exist as of 2010 were retrofitted to be more energy efficient, the country as a whole would save over $41.1 billion a year in energy bills.

That's according to the report "Energy Efficiency Retrofits for Commercial and Public Buildings" released Thursday by Pike Research.

Of course, in order to get to that $41.1 billion per year in savings, the owners of commercial properties would have to invest in the initial retrofit adaptations and construction upgrades . So how much is that going cost? Well, as it happens, we as a country have a lot of space to retrofit.

To energy retrofit all 79 billion square feet of commercial real estate that Pike Research estimates exists in the U.S. as of 2010, property owners would collectively spend about $22.5 billion a year in upgrades over the next 10 years.

That's a lot of cash for caulkers on a commercial scale. Why then, isn't there a boom in this new industry that could potentially put many people to work? As with residential retrofits, the main problem is financing .

"The current financial crisis has had a significant dampening effect on property owners' investments in their properties. Financing for such projects is scarce, and the limited investment in building efficiency is not keeping pace with the growing national demand for energy," according to Pike Research.

The federal government has been doing its part to encourage energy retrofits as far as its own buildings are concerned. There are policy mandates for federal building energy efficiency and available financing to bring those buildings up to code through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). In fact, in addition to the various loans and grants for energy efficiency programs, $4.5 billion of ARRA was specifically earmarked to make federal buildings more energy efficient .

But that's a small dent, as federal buildings make up less than 3 percent of existing U.S. commercial space, according to Pike Research.

While some major companies have invested in green updates for their properties it's yet to really catch on. Pike Research believes this is about to change and that energy retrofitting for commercial properties will become a strong growth market "through 2014 and beyond."

"In addition to cost savings, energy retrofits are attractive for purposes of greenhouse gas reductions, energy independence, green branding, property valuation, and productivity," according to the Pike Research report.

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About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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