Studies: Revealing Buildings' Energy Use Creates Jobs

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In today’s economy, finding a proven catalyst for job growth—one that comes with no taxpayer price tag—is cause for excitement. Better yet: a jobs catalyst that saves consumers and businesses money and benefits the environment.

Two new reports from the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) show how a new kind of energy policy is creating skilled, export-proof jobs in cities across the United States. Under this type of policy (called building energy rating and disclosure), owners of large buildings track exactly how much energy their properties use.

Armed with this information, they can make changes that reduce their utility bills and those of building occupants—helping everyone’s bottom line. Five cities and two states have already adopted such policies. If there were a national policy, 23,000 net new jobs would be added in 2015 and 59,000 jobs in 2020.

When buildings’ energy use is made transparent (given a grade that is published online or shared in a real estate transaction), it’s like an MPG sticker for buildings. Americans can shop for office space or a new apartment with an eye on how much it will cost them in utilities. That, in turn, spurs owners to make their buildings more efficient, creating demand for specialists who can help reduce energy use: energy managers and auditors, sustainability consultants, and HVAC professionals.

Energy Disclosure and the New Frontier for American Jobs profiles business leaders who are adding jobs and expanding their client rosters. These are mostly small business owners who are pioneers in the emerging field of building energy management.

In New York City, FS Energy has grown from three to 10 employees, thanks to the city’s Local Law 84. Steven Winters Associates has added more than 10 members of staff.

“Our business is growing a lot and we anticipate it will continue to grow. We already have more work to do than we have people for,” says Erica Brabon, senior consultant.

Sustaining Structures, a Seattle firm, expects to triple in size in coming years, and has already seen its client base grow by more than 30 percent since Seattle’s rating and disclosure law was passed.

Analysis of Job Creation and Energy Cost Savings From Building Energy Rating and Disclosure Policy shows that current job growth is just the beginning. This analysis by IMT and the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, predicts:

  • A national building energy rating and disclosure policy would create more than 23,000 net new jobs in 2015 and 59,000 jobs in 2020.
  • It would reduce energy costs for building owners, consumers, and businesses by more than $18 billion through 2020.
  • The energy and greenhouse gas reduction would be equivalent to taking more than three million cars off the road each year.

“Brilliant in its simplicity, public disclosure of building energy consumption will start a stampede to upgrade buildings,” predicts venture capitalist Elton Sherwin, author of the book Addicted to Energy. Energy disclosure harnesses the power of information in a way that’s unprecedented for the built environment.

For decades, nobody has known the difference between an energy-efficient building and an energy-inefficient building. “Better information means more competition for better buildings,” says IMT’s Andrew Burr, the lead author of both reports. “It means more private investment channeled into training workers, retuning mechanical systems, and upgrading equipment. And that means more work improving American buildings and more American jobs.”

To download a copy of the Energy Disclosure report, click here.

For a copy of the Analysis of Job Creation report, click here.

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