News Article
February 1, 2013

Sustainable Energy in America: 2013 Factbook

The state of U.S. energy and the role of new technologies


Building energy efficiency is making its mark in the current energy economy, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  “Sustainable Energy in America: 2013 Factbook,” commissioned by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, offers straightforward benchmarks on the contributions of new energy technologies today and provides information on finance and investment trends in clean energy resources. It focuses on sustainable energy, including natural gas, renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass) and distributed power, as well as energy efficiency.


According to the report, the energy intensity of commercial buildings has decreased by over 40 percent since 1980 through improving building standards and increasingly sophisticated approaches to energy efficiency retrofits, including efficiency finance.  Additionally, demand response capacity grew by more than 250 percent between 2006 and 2011, allowing major power consumers to cut their energy costs and utilities to scale back production from some of the costliest power plants. Approximately 46 million smart meters have been installed in the U.S., while spending on smart grid technology reached $4.3 billion in 2012, up from $1.3 billion in 2008.


Innovative Financing Mechanisms


The report highlights two innovative financial mechanisms as particularly important to addressing the challenge of financing building retrofits in the commercial sector:

  • Property assessed clean energy (PACE), which allows repayments for building retrofits to be paid through a building’s property tax bill, is gaining some traction in certain urban markets.

  • Efficiency service agreements (ESA) and energy-savings performance contracting (ESPC) have expanded.  Using the ESPC approach, the user pays a fixed cost for energy, and a service provider implements energy savings measures to create an improved building energy profile, replace lights, equipment, etc.  This differs from a conventional loan because these mechanisms improve the operating cost for the building. The ESA agreement is in many ways equivalent to a lease, but the obligation to pay for kWh saved – rather than through fixed-dollar payments – could be treated differently by accountants, possibly allowing the arrangement to be taken off the balance sheet.

Evolving Buildings Codes


The report notes building codes and appliance standards have contributed to the deployment of efficient hardware and the improvement of technologies. For example, ASHRAE Standard 90 – a standard for building energy efficiency – has evolved since the late 1970s, and its evolution began to correlate with lower site energy usage in buildings after 1990.


National and State Policies


The report also points out that policy measures have supported energy efficiency. At the national level, ENERGY STAR-certified commercial building floor space increased by 139 percent from 2008 to 2012. Meanwhile, state-level policies, including decoupling measures and energy efficiency resource standards (EERS), increased U.S. utility budgets for energy efficiency expenditures to $7 billion in 2011.


Read the entire report Sustainable Energy in America: 2013 Factbook >>

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February 2013