ATLANTA, GA – City skylines have long been a symbol of innovation and prosperity. What you can’t see is that these same buildings are some of the United States’ largest energy consumers and are therefore responsible for significant amounts of the nation’s carbon pollution. However, a new study by Dr. Marilyn Brown and the Georgia Institute of Technology has found that by implementing the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which was finalized one year ago today, commercial building owners and occupants in the United States could realize total annual electricity savings of $11.3 billion in 2030, a reduction of 6.7% compared to doing nothing at all.
“What this study reveals is that cities, and the commercial buildings that comprise them, hold a key to both lower carbon pollution as well as lower bills for commercial electricity consumers if states embrace energy efficiency and clean energy investments associated with state implementation of the Clean Power Plan,” said Dr. Marilyn Brown, the study’s author. Sustainability Officers across the country can attest to these claims. Stephanie Benfield, Director of Atlanta’s Sustainability Office has learned from experience that “Energy efficiency is the key to low cost integration of cleaner energy that significantly benefits the bottom line of businesses – large and small, while reducing dirty energy sources that cause climate change.”
These same investments would also have the ancillary benefit of reducing natural gas bills by $3.6 billion (10.1%) in 2030. These savings are triggered in part by a new generation of air source heat pumps that replace less efficient units commonly seen on the rooftops of office buildings, schools, restaurants and big-box stores. These new technologies tackle one of the most rapidly growing energy uses in the United States – air conditioning. If these benefits weren't enough, there are huge negative consequences to doing nothing. Without any changes in the way we produce electricity, the electricity bills of commercial building owners and occupants in the United States would rise by about 21.4% over the next 15 years under business as usual.
The Georgia Tech study energy bill savings are expected to be greatest for retail and office buildings. In the United States it is estimated that these building space owners would cut their electricity costs by $2.9 billion and $2 billion respectively in 2030, while at the same time cutting CO2 emissions significantly.
“Occupants and owners of other building types, ranging from education to food and lodging, would also save significantly on their energy bills as states meet their Clean Power Plan goals,” said Dr. Brown. “Energy efficiency offers multiple benefits and these results illustrate how commercial building owners and occupants can gain from more efficient and more affordable air conditioning, lighting, electronics and other equipment, and from improved building shells as well as rooftop solar systems.”
The study examined the finalized August 2015 Clean Power Plan developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Obama Administration. The plan proposed an historic step aimed at reducing carbon pollution by implementing first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. The Clean Power Plan establishes carbon pollution goals for each state, and is projected to achieve a 32 percent cut in U.S. carbon pollution from power plants by 2030 compared with 2005.
EPA projects that the Clean Power Plan will help avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work and school days annually by 2030. The reduction of carbon pollution in our air will also prevent thousands of heart attacks and hospital admissions every year.
The following are links to fact sheets on the impacts of CPP to commercial energy bills in 13 states: