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In the Nation's Interest

How American Business can Reduce Costs and Lower Emissions

By Michael Chesser
Chairman and CEO (Retired), Great Plains Energy, Inc.
Trustee, Committee for Economic Development

The Energy Information Administration estimates that U.S. buildings contributed nearly 40% of our country’s CO2 emissions in 2012. With a majority of Americans continuing to express concerns over global warming, we all know the status quo is simply unsustainable – both economically and environmentally.

A healthy economy and environment can go – and must go – hand-in-hand, but it’ll require that more antiquated buildings are modernized for sustainable energy usage.

In addition, retrofitting more buildings would create thousands of jobs in the construction industry.  This sector has especially suffered in recent years.  This past July, the industry’s unemployment rate was over 9%.  In Hawaii, 5,000 jobs – many of them in construction – are being created as a result of the state’s goal to double the energy efficiency of state and county buildings by 2015.  This includes its airports, wastewater treatment plants, and even jails.

Retrofitting also leads to substantial cost savings.  New York’s Empire State Building began an extensive retrofitting in 2009, which has entailed, among other measures, having its windows, mechanical and electrical systems upgraded to conserve and better utilize energy.  The renovations have already produced impressive benefits: in 2012 the building reaped $2.3 million in savings, surpassing its year’s energy savings goal by 4%.  The building can expect a stunning 38% reduction in energy consumption once all renovations are complete.  This will, remarkably, slash carbon emissions by 105,000 metric tons over fifteen years.

This video provides an overview of the Empire State Building’s renovations:

The benefits to upgrading America's buildings are compelling - improved environment, stimulated local economies, and reduced costs to building owners. And everyone benefits from lower electric bills. When taking into account avoided new generating plants, energy efficiency is our lowest cost power source!

Trustee blogs are the views of an individual trustee and not the official policy of CED.