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Retrofitting the nation's public and institutional buildings for greater energy efficiency, financing these retrofits from the savings achieved, and requiring local-hire and job and advancement standards for those who do the work can provide the widespread high-road job creation needed in today's economy. Publicly controlled buildings are an obvious place to focus for a number of reasons. There are almost 140,000 entities in this sector in the United States, including state and local governments, school districts, colleges and universities, and medical institutions. We estimate that these entities control about 16.5 billion square feet of floor space and use about 3.87 quadrillion BTU a year, at a cost of about $40.7 billion. The estimated cost of upgrading this building stock is between $38.3 billion and $61.2 billion. Such upgrades would save approximately $8.1 billion dollars per year and create between 164,690 and 428,400 FTE. We discuss the financial structures that can be used, the barriers to doing this work, and the policies needed to overcome these barriers and create high-road jobs.
Local governments can advance energy-efficient technologies and practices in the marketplace by promoting energy efficiency in their own everyday operations, a practice commonly known as "Leading by Example" (LBE). Taking actions to improve the energy efficiency of government-owned and -leased facilities and fleets can accrue multiple benefits for both the government and the people it serves. Energy can account for as much as 10% of a typical local government's annual operating budget. As local governments attempt to act with heightened levels of austerity, implementing cost-effective energy efficiency processes and technologies is a proven solution to reduce unneeded spending.
U.S. Department of Energy fact sheet guide to Energy Savings Performance Contracting for governments.
Governments everywhere are looking for ways to create new, quality jobs, despite restricted budgets. Although many have enacted programs that facilitate energy efficiency retrofits for the residential and commercial sectors, retrofit of public buildings has garnered little policy attention.
The seemingly insurmountable problems of climate change, poverty, and a nation dependent on dirty or foreign sources of energy are among the most serious challenges facing our country. But like all challenges, these present an opportunity-the opportunity to address all three problems at once-by building a domestic energy economy based on efficiency and renewable energy and focusing the job creation and training efforts that accompany such an economy on low-income communities. As Green For All founder Van Jones says, "we can beat pollution and poverty at the same time."
As the Road Map to Emerald Cities explains, the engine of the Emerald Cities Initiative is a dynamic partnership between labor and community and a common pledge to work together: to green our cities in ways that address the threat of climate change and chart a high-road path to economic revitalization; to build our communities in ways that create good jobs and promote equality; and, to strengthen our democracy in ways that give greater voice to community and labor and increase access to consequential decision-making about the urban future.
Clean Energy Works Portland (CEWP) is an innovative effort to deliver affordable home energy upgrades by testing new ways of delivering energy efficiency to homeowners in Portland. The project is intended to save energy, reduce carbon emissions, improve home comfort and home values, and create new jobs and long-term employment opportunties and career paths for Portland area residents.