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Interest in Energy Efficiency Remains High,
But Action and Investments Lag Behind

by Leslie Guevarra
GreenBiz, May 6, 2009

Many businesses reported they had already taken fewer actions or none at all toward improving efficiency in the past year. OAKLAND, Calif. -- Northern American business leaders continue to express robust interest in energy efficiency, but their investments and actions to improve buildings have weakened, according to findings of an annual survey by Johnson Controls Inc. and the International Facility Management Association.

Johnson Controls and IFMA released results of the third annual Energy Efficiency Indicator survey on Wednesday in Milwaukee. (An overview of the report, a slideshow on the findings and other material produced from the research are available on the resources page.)

For a second consecutive year, research showed a decline in capital and operating expenditures for energy efficiency -- a reflection of hesitancy on the part of decisionmakers as they tried to steer their companies toward firm ground amid unrelenting economic turbulence. Click for full-sized image.

Seventy-one percent of the 1,422 survey respondents -- the majority of them facility managers to C-level executives -- nevertheless told researchers that they are paying more attention to energy efficiency now than they were 12 months ago.

That's very close to the response last year, when 72 percent said they were more attuned to energy efficiency issues than they had been during the prior year -- a focus spurred by increasing concerns about rising energy costs.

In other results this year, more than half the respondents -- 58 percent -- said energy management is very important to extremely important to their organization. The figure rises to 91 percent when respondents who said the issue is at least somewhat important to them are counted.

Researchers also found that undertaking projects to increase energy efficiency in buildings has been the most popular strategy -- it was cited by 45 percent of the survey participants -- to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions that had been pledged to the public.

However, fewer people this year said they expect to make energy efficiency improvements in the next 12 months.

At the same time, many reported they had already taken fewer actions or none at all toward improving efficiency in the past year.

Declines were evident in 14 of 18 action categories, whereas in 2008 advances and retreats among the categories were split 50-50.

Limited funding, a desire for greater incentives and shorter payback periods, uncertainty about energy and regulatory policy and the changing political climate -- in addition to the roiling economy -- all contributed to the apparent setbacks.

Yesterday, JCI and IFMA pointed to successful largescale efficiency projects -- the greening under way at New York's historic Empire State Building and recent initiatives at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and the Manpower Inc. headquarters -- as efforts that have defied the trend and set examples for best practices even during tough times. Highlights of the three big projects supplemented a presentation made Wednesday on the research findings.

The research sponsors as well as representatives for the Oak Ridge lab and the Empire State Building expressed optimism that both action and investments in energy efficiency initiatives would rebound in the next 18 months as progress is made toward economic recovery and clarity emerges regarding energy policy and regulation.

"I think we'll see substantial change next year," said C. David Myers, president of Building Efficiency for Johnson Controls. "And I think that change will be action where activity was laggard this year. I also think there will be a better economic environment next year compared with what you see today."

Leslie Guevarra
Interest in Energy Efficiency Remains High, But Action and Investments Lag Behind
GreenBiz, May 6, 2009

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