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The Case for Action: Creating a Clean Energy Future

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The Case for Action: Creating a Clean Energy Future
May 2010

The United States needs strong action now to reduce the risks of climate change, strengthen our energy independence, protect our national security, and create new jobs and economic opportunities. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change believes that the case for action has never been stronger. With a strong energy and climate policy the United States can lead the 21st century clean energy economy.

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Conference Shines a Compact Fluorescent Spotlight on Energy Efficiency

Our corporate energy efficiency conference opened by answering the big question: What actions should businesses take to reduce energy use?

  • Don't just set goals, set big hairy audacious ones even if you may not know exactly how to achieve them, asserted PepsiCo.
  • Efficiency is done better together – you have to get all your business units moving forward on efficiency, advised IBM
  • Make the data visible – quarterly scorecards on efficiency measures lead to shared knowledge, clear measures against goals and the ability to hold leaders accountable and reward those who deliver results, suggested Dow Chemical
  • Show them the money – you need to show everyone from the board room to the boiler room that energy efficiency is good for business, stressed Toyota.

So how do you do all this? The solutions-oriented conference provided answers through panels covering the various components of corporate energy efficiency.

The conference marked the launch of our recent report, "From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency" authored by William Prindle, Vice President of ICF International.  Held April 6-7 in Chicago, the two-day conference brought together a diverse audience, including representatives of numerous companies with products ranging from software to soft drinks.

The conference was kicked off with presentations from six companies whose best practices in energy efficiency were highlighted in the report's case studies (Best Buy, Dow Chemical, IBM, PepsiCoToyota, and UTC). Subsequent panels examined issues such as overcoming financial barriers in pursuing energy efficiency projects, gaining senior level support for energy efficiency, engaging employees, suppliers and customers in energy efficiency efforts, and the challenges of gathering and reporting energy efficiency data.

In every panel session there was an abundance of questions, and lively discussions spilled out into the hallways during breaks. Panelists discussing financial barriers to energy efficiency were asked about building a financial case for employee engagement programs, PACE financing, and tradable energy efficiency certificates. Attendees had panelists pondering the idea of a best-of-the-best list within the joint U.S. DOE/U.S. EPA ENERGY STAR program and how to include supply chain efficiency metrics in labeling.  How to keep employees engaged in energy efficiency measures and bringing suppliers into the fold were other key questions asked of conference panelists.

While the discussions mostly focused on what companies can do to be more energy efficient, the broader issue of climate change was not far from everyone's minds. Former Senator John Warner, a keynote speaker, was asked about the right message that would get Congress moving on climate change legislation. And keynotes John Rowe, CEO and Chairman of Exelon, and our President Eileen Claussen both noted that policy that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions is essential to moving the United States to a low-carbon economy and addressing climate change.

Videos and presentations from the conference are available on our Web site.

Aisha Husain is an Energy Efficiency Fellow.

UPS's New Green Label for Eco-Friendly Packages (GreenBiz, April 15, 2010)

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Energy Efficiency Teaser: 
ATLANTA, GA — Companies that meet United Parcel Service's new green standards for responsible packaging can ship their goods with a label attesting to that fact under an assessment program the carrier introduces today.

ATLANTA, GA — Companies that meet United Parcel Service's new green standards for responsible packaging can ship their goods with a label attesting to that fact under an assessment program the carrier introduces today. Read full article.

Business-NGO Group Calls on Obama for Greater Consumer Access to Energy Data

A group of nearly 50 companies and organizations, including the Center, sent President Obama a letter this month asking the Administration to lead the way to providing all consumers access to their energy information.  The April 5 letter calls for giving consumers access to this information via devices such as computers and phones; making it easier for them to monitor and manage their energy use.

With timely and actionable information on energy consumption, households and businesses can avoid inefficiencies that drive up consumer costs and greenhouse gas emissions.  Through its Make an Impact program, we also works to weave sustainability and energy efficiency into the fabric of its partners’ corporate culture. The program provides accessible information to employees and their communities on ways to reduce energy use, lower their carbon footprint, and save money. These savings can be significant: If every U.S. household saved 15% on its energy use by 2020, GHG savings would be equivalent to taking 35 million cars off the road and would   save consumers $46 billion on their energy bills each year. 

AT&T, GE, Google, Intel Seek White House Energy Push (InformationWeek, April 5, 2010)

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Hoping to promote greater energy efficiency and to jump-start the nascent market for consumer energy monitoring technology, a group of 45 major companies and organizations -- including AT&T, GE, Google, Intel, and various advocacy, investment, and trade organizations -- on Monday asked President Obama in an open letter to promote greater consumer access to energy usage data. Read full article.

From Shop Floor to Top Floor

From factory floors to corporate boardrooms, energy efficiency is top of mind for a growing number of businesses and their employees. Leading companies are pioneering new energy efficiency strategies that result in greater productivity, robust financial savings, and a lower carbon footprint. Today, we released a major study that examines key practices of a diverse collection of corporations at the vanguard of innovative energy efficiency solutions.

The report, From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency, features insights from detailed research and analysis collected over nearly two years. The study represents the centerpiece of our Corporate Energy Efficiency Conference next week in Chicago.

From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency

Report cover

From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency

April 2010

By:

William Prindle

In the last decade, rising and volatile energy prices coupled with increasing concern about climate change and growing support for action on energy and environmental issues has driven a surge of corporate environmental commitments. Energy efficiency has emerged as a key component of these commitments. Leading firms that give greater attention to energy efficiency report billions of dollars in savings and millions of tons of avoided greenhouse gas emissions, according to Pew Center’s report “From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency.” This report documents leading-edge energy efficiency strategies, describes best practices, and provides guidance and resources for other businesses seeking to reduce energy use in their internal operations, supply chains, and products and services.

The report was developed over nearly two years of effort, including a detailed survey of the Pew Center’s Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) members and other leading companies, in-depth case studies of six companies, a series of workshops on key energy efficiency topics, broader research in the corporate energy field, and development of a full-featured Web portal to provide a platform for highlighting and updating key findings from the project as well as providing tools, resources, and other important information. The project was funded with generous support from Toyota.

Full Report (Download pdf)

Executive Summary (Download pdf)

Case Studies

Press release (click here)

Audio of teleconference on the report (click here)

We released our new report “From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency” on March 31, 2010. The report documents best practices in corporate energy efficiency.
William Prindle
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Weyerhaeuser Joins USCAP

While opponents of a clean-energy economy try to frame both climate legislation and the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) as dead wood, today Weyerhaeuser—the multi-billion dollar forest products company—confounded those voices in announcing it has joined the USCAP coalition.  The company has long had a commitment to address climate change, and it has been an active member of our Business Environmental Leadership Council for nearly twelve years. 

This is more than a lone green shoot, as Weyerhaeuser joins an ever-growing chorus of companies calling for the U.S. economy to regain its competitive edge rather than let other countries corner the emerging global clean-energy market.  Weyerhaeuser, like the 24 companies in USCAP, 46 companies in BELC, 65+ companies on the recent Wall Street Journal and Politico ad and the over 2600 companies in the American Business for Clean Energy Coalition, all understand that we can protect our natural resources and future generations from climate change, while creating American jobs, taking back control of our own energy future, and enhancing our national security. 

The business community is leading on the issue—now we need the Senate to follow.

Tim Juliani is Director of Corporate Engagement in the Markets & Business Strategy group

Clean Energy Conference Shows Efficiency Means Savings

April 12, 2010

By Eileen Claussen

This article originally appeared in Reuters.

While policymakers in Washington debate the best path forward for dealing with climate change, a growing number of U.S. businesses have discovered a simple technique that can lower costs, increase productivity, and slash greenhouse gas emissions.  What’s more, it can work for any business no matter what they make—whether it’s potato chips or computer chips.

 

It’s called energy efficiency, and a growing number of U.S. businesses are starting to get it. 

What does it mean to be efficient?  Seven habits of highly efficient companies as identified in the Pew Center’s new report From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency, lists designating full-time staff to be accountable for energy performance, communicating externally the company’s successes in reducing energy costs and emissions and – perhaps most importantly – integrating sustainability as a core part of corporate strategic planning and risk assessment.

The results of this two-year study, featured this week at our Corporate Energy Efficiency Conference in Chicago attended by 260 representatives from 120 companies and universities, speak for themselves. 

Dow Chemical, which purchases as much energy in a year as Australia, estimates that its efficiency efforts have saved the company $8.6 billion since 1994 while avoiding about 86 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.  The retailer Best Buy says that in 2008 its sales of certified ENERGY STAR products saved customers over $90 million in electric bills.

Why are they doing it?  For starters, higher and more volatile energy prices.

Energy experts at Toyota think of it as a treasure hunt for low-cost efficiency gains that equate to big cost savings. Like other innovative companies, Toyota empowers its employees to uncover and correct inefficient energy practices at their own plants and, in some cases, for their suppliers.  These efforts are in line with Toyota’s goal to reduce energy use per vehicle produced by 30 percent in 2011.

But concern about climate change, and growing customer and employee support for action on energy and environmental issues also matter, according to our corporate energy efficiency report.  In many cases, CEOs are personally spearheading efficiency efforts at their companies, reflecting the priority now given to energy saving measures.

“The most inexpensive items are generally improvements in energy efficiency, some of which are economic even without a price on carbon,” said Exelon CEO John Rowe at the conference. Exelon, one of the country’s largest electric utilities, cut energy use at its corporate headquarters by 50 percent by retrofitting it to meet LEED Platinum standards. 

The most effective companies are also looking outside their own walls to tap into even greater efficiency opportunities.  This means working with suppliers to adopt energy efficient practices, and designing products that allow consumers to share in energy savings. 

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart announced a goal to reduce carbon emissions from its global supply chain by 20 million tons, which is the equivalent shuttering six average-sized coal plants or taking 3.8 million cars off the road for a year.  United Technologies recently announced a goal to improve the energy efficiency of its products by at least 10 percent by 2010.

Energy efficiency also drives broader innovation, and the benefits go beyond dollars saved and emissions reduced. A focus on energy efficiency can lead to reevaluating business practices, often turning up improvements that increase productivity and enhance quality. 

Ambitious energy-savings targets forced Frito Lay to reexamine the way it bakes tortilla chips.  By installing new draft controls on ovens that reduced heat loss and evened out heat distribution, the quality of the chips improved.  At IBM, a focus on efficiency led to equipment upgrades that reduce energy use and improve reliability in semiconductor manufacturing processes. 

It is encouraging to see so many leading companies embrace energy efficiency as a win-win solution.  But energy efficiency isn’t just for businesses. 

We can all cut energy use, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and save money by taking simple steps like turning off the lights when we leave the room, adding insulation in our homes, and taking shorter showers.

But I’ve been around long enough to know that we can’t rely exclusively on voluntary action to achieve our environmental goals.

We need a comprehensive national clean energy policy that puts a price on carbon. Legislation that establishes such a price would unleash hundreds of millions of investment dollars, deliver an adrenaline shot to our nation’s manufacturing sector, and create thousands of well-paying jobs.  Energy efficiency sits atop the list of low-carbon choices poised to deliver immediate results in a clean energy economy.

Leading corporations have shown us what is possible.  It is time we follow in their footsteps and embrace energy efficiency as something we can do right now to help create a safer, more prosperous future. 
Eileen Claussen is President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. 

Eileen Claussen is President of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change

by Eileen Claussen, President--Appeared in Reuters, April 12, 2010
Eileen Claussen
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Breaking the Ice on U.S. Clean Energy Opportunities

On Friday, March 12, we held a briefing on jobs and opportunities in clean energy markets.

Today, the President signed an Executive Order creating an Export Promotion Cabinet of top officials and an Export Promotion Council, a private-sector advisory body. This Executive Order serves to highlight once again how important American exports and competitiveness are to economic recovery and continued US economic strength.  While much hand-wringing has occurred over the potential for climate and energy policy to hurt the ability of U.S. firms to compete in international markets, the opportunity of such policy to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. businesses has received less notice. The irony is that even as the planet warms, the United States may be left standing out in the cold if it doesn’t choose to lead in the development of next-generation energy technologies.

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