Report: Cities, Businesses Could Save Big by Going Green
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
LANSING, Mich. - Along with its natural beauty, Michigan is home to some stunning city skylines, and a new report says energy-efficiency upgrades could save businesses money while preserving the "Pure Michigan" way of life.
It's been one year since the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions was finalized. While critics continue to claim it will bankrupt the nation, growing evidence points to the contrary.
Dr. Marilyn Brown, a professor in the School of Public Policy of the Georgia Institute of Technology, said Michigan's commercial sector could realize average annual savings of more than $293 million on electric bills in 2030, and another $300 million in natural gas bills, if the Clean Power Plan was implemented, compared with doing nothing.
"Most electricity is used to heat and cool and light buildings," Brown said, "and about half of that building electricity goes to businesses, so it's a really important source for climate mitigation, CO2 emission reductions."
A previous study found significant potential savings for consumers as well, despite claims that electric rates would go up. The Clean Power Plan set the first-ever federal carbon pollution limits for power plants. Full implementation of the plan was halted in February after 20 states, including Michigan, filed lawsuits challenging the rules.
Many Michigan cities, including Grand Rapids, aren't waiting for the court battle to play out. They're already reaping the benefits of increased energy efficiency, as Haris Alibasic, the city's energy and sustainability director, explained.
"The city of Grand Rapids, over the past seven years, we made significant improvement to our energy efficiency in buildings," Alibasic said, "and as a result, we are able to see avoided costs as well as savings."
Brown said one big step all cities can take is what's known as energy benchmarking: requiring all buildings larger than 100,000 square feet to document and report their energy usage. She said it's a powerful way to let the market drive efficiency upgrades.
"That means that if a tenant wants to consider what the real cost of occupying a space in that building might be," Brown said, "they'd have some good sense of how efficient the office complex is."
The study found that considerable savings and carbon reduction could be achieved by switching to electric heating and cooling systems in commercial buildings, using new technology air-source pumps in place of natural gas heating, and rooftop air conditioning units.
The report is online at cepl.gatech.edu.
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