Obama's Better Building Initiative Sounds Really Familiar

During a visit to Penn State University yesterday, President Obama unveiled aggressive plans to increase energy efficiency in commercial buildings through his new Better Building Initiative. Piggybacking on his recent State of the Union, this is the President’s plan to “win the future by making American businesses more energy efficient.” The initiative has three overriding goals:

  • Achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2020
  • Reduce companies’ and business owners’ energy bills by about $40 billion per year
  • Save energy by reforming outdated incentives and challenging the private sector to act

As we at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)  know all too well, last year commercial buildings consumed roughly 20 percent of all energy in the U.S. economy. It is this enormous opportunity that led us to develop the EDF Climate Corps program in 2008. We realized that companies knew what they ought to be doing to address energy use in commercial buildings, but many lacked the resources to quantify and curtail the financial and environmental impacts. Our program created a much needed bridge for this resource gap, matching trained students from leading business schools with companies to develop practical and actionable energy efficiency plans.

Not only do Climate Corps fellows create plans for projects through examining lighting, HVAC and computer power management, but they help companies strategize ways to finance upfront costs. While energy efficiency projects can yield huge long-term cost savings, the initial investments are sometimes the biggest hurdle to implementation. So we are eager to learn more about the tax incentives entailed in the Better Building Initiative as well as the DOE pilot program which will guarantee loans at hospitals, schools and other commercial buildings.

Strikingly in line with the goals of Climate Corps, the President’s plan aims to “train the next generation of commercial building technology workers” through providing more workforce training in areas such as energy audits and building operations. In addition to helping companies identify ways to reduce energy usage, we’ve spent the last three years training tomorrow's business leaders to incorporate energy efficiency as a standard management practice.

Our Climate Corps fellows, especially those from Penn State, are all abuzz about the announcement as well.

“As an EDF Climate Corps fellow at Verizon, I know firsthand that energy efficiency represents the largest, cheapest and cleanest energy source for our energy-hungry economy,” said Ryan Mallett, Penn State MBA and 2010 Climate Corps fellow at Verizon.  “Everyone at Penn State was thrilled to have President Obama on campus today to hear that energy efficiency is a key piece of moving the country forward. EDF Climate Corps aims to make energy efficiency a reality at leading corporations, and it’s amazing to hear the President recognizing the importance of our work as a national priority.”

When we hear the White House is rolling out an initiative that in many ways mirrors the core aspects of our very own EDF Climate Corps program, we can’t help but pat ourselves on the back and say, “Great minds think alike.”

See which companies have already decided to contribute to these goals by signing up for EDF Climate Corps 2011.

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