This month I joined John Donahue, the CEO of eBay, at a National Press Club event to discuss the climate benefits created by small, online retail businesses. The retail sector—and the private sector more broadly—has a huge opportunity to innovate and drive us toward a more climate-friendly clean energy economy, and we are encouraged that eBay is stepping forward to make this point.
Active business community engagement is fundamental both to achieving effective climate policy and to achieving real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Industry must work with their employees, their supply chain, and policy makers to make the case that addressing a changing climate is essential and can be good for business—providing policy certainty, leading to innovation and investment, and ultimately helping to move our economy towards a low-carbon future.
According to the new eBay-commissioned white paper, small e-retailers facilitate the reuse of products and eliminate the need for carbon-intensive brick-and-mortar stores, both of which are climate-friendly compared to big box retail. For instance, it suggests that since eBay’s founding 15 years ago, the infrastructure savings from its online marketplace alone have cumulatively displaced emissions equivalent to approximately 4 million tons of CO2 per year, or the annual output of 760,000 cars—roughly the number registered in the state of Kansas or West Virginia.
In our current period of policy uncertainty, one thing we do know is that energy efficiency matters and it works. We also know from the work we do on employee engagement that individuals and consumers are a huge untapped resource in the effort to seriously address our energy-climate challenges. It’s clear that the key role for retailers—both online and “offline”—is to connect consumers to low-emission/energy-efficient goods and services, and companies such as eBay and Best Buy, a featured case study in our recent report on corporate energy efficiency, are doing just that.
Eileen Claussen is President
Despite the uncertain future of comprehensive federal climate legislation, states continue to move forward with energy policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save consumers money on their electricity bills. One policy in particular is quickly gaining traction in the states: Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, programs. Twenty-three states plus Washington, DC, have PACE legislation, and 13 others have proposals on the table including Kentucky, South Carolina, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania.
PACE is an innovative funding mechanism that addresses many of the financial barriers to energy efficiency and renewable energy retrofits on residential, commercial, and industrial properties. In general through PACE states delegate authority to local governments to designate an improvement district and issue bonds, which provide low-interest, long-term loans to property owners for energy saving measures. The loans are paid back through an addition on the property tax bill and often over a 20-year period. If the property is sold, the debt transfers to the new owner. PACE programs usually create a lien on properties that is “senior” to (i.e., takes precedence over) other obligations on the property.
Because PACE is run by local governments, there are different styles of implementation for the various program elements including: program administration, underwriting criteria, source of funds, eligible measures, and quality control. For example, San Francisco uses a third party for administrative functions and issues “mini-bonds” to be purchased by a pre-determined investor, while Babylon County, in New York, uses in-house staff to administrate and has repurposed an existing solid waste fund for financing.
The White House strongly supports initiatives that make it easier for homeowners to get loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements, and PACE programs have benefited from $150 million in stimulus funding. In an effort to standardize best practices and ensure that PACE is good policy for all stakeholders, the White House released a Policy Framework for PACE Financing Programs in October 2009. The measures initially accelerated the adoption of PACE and served as a guide for the second generation of PACE programs.
However, both existing and developing programs have been slowed or halted entirely due to opposition from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. In May, both agencies sent letters to mortgage lenders reminding them that an energy-related lien may not be senior to a federally backed mortgage. The letters place a burden on the lender to determine if they originate mortgages in any state or locality that permits a first lien priority on energy loans. Proponents of PACE and its senior lien provision say it is a necessary requirement for local governments to raise funds.
Following Freddie and Fannie, on July 14 the Federal Housing and Financing Agency (FHFA) released a statement of their opposition to PACE. As a result, the California attorney general’s office has sued the FHFA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac for their actions and unwillingness to guarantee properties with PACE assessments. The July 14 lawsuit asks the court to declare that PACE does not violate the standards of Fannie and Freddie and also requests an injunction to prevent the agencies from taking action against home owners with PACE loans. Congress is also working on legislation that would require Freddie and Fannie to use underwriting standards that would facilitate the use of PACE programs. With a scarcity of financing options that overcome the high upfront cost of retrofits, this is an issue worth watching closely.
Olivia Nix is the Innovative Solutions intern
Provisions in any legislation can be confusing. Trying to compare similar provisions across different bills can compound the confusion. To help make things more clear, we have two side-by-side comparison charts, one on energy-efficiency provisions, and the other on electric plug-in vehicle provisions, of this Congress’ energy and climate legislation.
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, PepsiCo, Toyota, 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.
Earth Day – it’s the perfect day to start your energy diet. It’s great to hug a tree, (in fact, that’s how you measure the carbon it sequesters) but for most of us, it’s even better to wrap our arms around that tangle of charger cords and pull the plug. Reducing your energy consumption is the very best way to honor Mother Earth – and save money – this year and every year.
Since I am perpetually on a diet, let me share some of the best strategies for getting started:
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.
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
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)
- Dow Chemical (Download pdf)
- United Technologies Corporation (Download pdf)
- IBM (Download pdf)
- Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (Download pdf)
- PepsiCo (Download pdf)
- Best Buy (Download pdf)
Press release (click here)
Audio of teleconference on the report (click here)
Dow Chemical has saved about $8.6 billion in energy costs since 1994. IBM overachieved on a 3.5 percent annual energy savings target, instead hitting 6.1 percent in 2008, saving millions of dollars in the process. And United Technologies Corporation met an original 25 percent energy efficiency target five years ahead of schedule, reset the target to 40 percent, and blew past it to achieve a 56 percent efficiency improvement by 2006.
How did these companies do it? What lessons can we draw from their extraordinary efforts? Can their successes be replicated across the broader economy?
These questions form the basis of our ongoing research project on corporate energy efficiency strategies. Findings from the study, titled “From Shop Floor to Top Floor: Best Business Practices in Energy Efficiency,” will be released April 6, 2010, at the start of a two-day conference in Chicago. The conference offers an unprecedented opportunity to hear directly from dozens of business executives who have successfully guided their companies to world-class energy savings. Registration is open now; don’t miss the opportunity to sign up for the special early bird rate of $600 for the two-day conference. Keynote speakers and panelists will be announced in the coming weeks. Also check out the conference ad in the Nov. 12 edition of The New York Times.
“Kick the grocery bag habit, turn the thermostat down, change just one in four bulbs to CFLs, and drive smarter,” that’s my advice in a nutshell as I travel around the country talking to people about saving money and saving energy through the Make an Impact program. Now, a great new study by David Biello in this month’s Scientific American backs this message up: “33 simple actions—ranging from improving the insulation to carpooling—could cut those annual carbon emissions by 123 million metric tons. That savings would more than entirely offset emissions from petroleum refineries, iron and steel works, and aluminum smelters combined.” Those aren’t small numbers and could represent as much as 7 percent of our emissions. There really is a role for the little guy in tackling the challenges of climate change.
For the last year we’ve been holding workshops and talking with communities about simple steps we can each take to save money, save energy, and save the planet along the way as part of The Make an Impact program (www.alcoa.com/makeanimpact or www.entergy.com/makeanimpact). Make an Impact is an education and action partnership between the Center and two thought-leader companies, Alcoa and Entergy. The program’s cornerstone is a website that anyone can visit, filled with non-biased, science based tools and information about reducing personal energy consumption. Those who try its carbon calculator will even get customized tips for improving their energy use choices. Originally designed to help employees, the website, tools and workshops have grown to include communities where partners have operations and their customers.