Retrofitting buildings has the potential to reduce our nation’s energy usage by 20 percent while creating more than 150,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
With city leaders on the constant hunt for new revenue streams, making buildings more energy efficient through retrofitting can reduce budgets by 10 percent. Numerous cities are taking advantage of opportunities stemming from President Obama’s Better Homes Initiative that provided $4 billion in public and private funds for these types of actions.
The benefits are seen across several different layers of the economy as projects lower costs, create jobs, and build a new industry. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel (currently in the labor doghouse, and rightfully so) set up a program to retrofit 100 city-owned buildings that is expected to save taxpayers between 4 and 5 million each year. The program will also create 375 jobs.
In Louisville, a project that will retrofit 24 buildings is projected to save $13 million over 15 years while creating 80 jobs and spurring $10 million in community spending.
In San Francisco, the retrofitting of 10 municipal buildings will provide 12,000 work hours for the region’s construction workers. City utility bills are projected to drop $200,000 annually, to boot.
These are three very different cities in different parts of the country that have used energy retrofitting to create the types of jobs that can never be outsourced. Existing buildings cannot be moved to China to be retrofitted at a lower cost and then shipped back (though I’m sure someone’s trying!), making this an industry that can grow without immediate fear of being undermined through low-road, foreign competition.
A burgeoning industry that creates middle class jobs while helping reduce our environmental footprint sounds like something out of the short-lived Al Gore era, yet it is happening right now in an economy still crawling back from near collapse. Most projects are currently regional but a similar series of federal programs could be the real stimulus we have needed all along, according to Anastasia Christman of The Huffington Post:
Researchers calculate that federal policies to expand tax credits, strengthen state building code requirements, and provide loan guarantees for commercial energy efficiency upgrades alone could create upwards of 160,000 new jobs, with state and local policies and private investment potentially contributing exponentially more.
Pike Research estimates that the U.S. energy retrofitting market will blossom into a $400 billion industry in the coming years.