Building Better: How high-efficiency buildings will save money and reduce global warming

Ann Arbor, MI - Michigan families could save over $1,100 every year on their energy bills by 2030 (and $1,800 by 2050) if Michigan policymakers invest in the energy efficiency of our buildings today, according to a report by Environment Michigan Research & Policy Center.  During a press teleconference releasing the report, a diverse coalition of organizations, city leaders and clean energy businesses unveiled a letter to the Michigan Senate calling for the immediate passage of PACE clean energy legislation (HB 5640).  The ReEnergize Michigan coalition – a statewide coalition made up of businesses, communities, faith-based groups, environmental organizations and labor unions – also announced its support for PACE and related policies that would boost Michigan’s energy efficiency competitiveness.

“Let’s not waste any more time, any more energy, or any more money on outdated buildings,” said Rob Sargent, on behalf of Environment Michigan.  “We need to invest in efficiency today so we can start building a better tomorrow.”

The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) enabling legislation that passed the Michigan House in April and awaits action in the Michigan Senate’s Local, Urban & State Affairs Committee helps overcome two key barriers to energy efficiency: upfront costs and payback periods that can exceed expected ownership.  PACE legislation enables municipalities to allow residents to voluntarily opt-in to receiving a loan for sensible energy efficiency (e.g., installing insulation) or renewable energy (e.g., installing a solar panel) upgrades to their homes.  These loans are repaid over time through their property taxes, thus lowering the overall costs of home ownership (the savings on energy bills is designed to exceed costs of loan repayments) and allowing for longer-term investments (since the loan and savings stays with the home in the case of a sale).  The state bill simply allows local units of government to create a PACE program if they wish to.

“This policy is a win for residents and the environment,” stated Andrew Brix, Energy Program Manager for the City of Ann Arbor.  “Once the state authorizes us to act, Ann Arbor will move forward quickly to make this program available to our residents.  Other municipalities are likely to follow suit.”

PACE is being successfully implemented in communities across the country.  Enabling legislation has passed in 22 states to date, with more being added rapidly.  Major benefits to PACE include the creation of jobs in energy efficiency that cannot be exported and leaving more money in Michiganders pockets to spend at home as opposed to on importing energy.

“Passing PACE and other energy efficiency legislation will allow small business owners like myself to create many more jobs while lowering residents’ bills and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” stated Scott Philips, Michigan Director of Efficiency First, an umbrella organization for energy efficiency service providers.

“This legislation is carefully crafted to allow all citizens in municipalities which choose to participate access to the needed capital to make sensible clean energy improvements to their homes,” stated Eric Jamison with the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.

America’s buildings consume more than 40 percent of our total energy, which amounts to almost 10 percent of all the energy used in the world. Much of this energy is wasted due to inadequate insulation, inefficient heating and cooling systems, and poor construction techniques.  The report, Building Better: How High-Efficiency Buildings Will Save Money and Reduce Global Warming, analyzes the benefits Michigan would see if we committed to dramatically improving the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings. The report uses government data to estimate reduced energy consumption, decreased fossil fuel use, money saved on energy bills, and global warming pollution prevented in 2030 and 2050 through strong efficiency policies like PACE.

Making our buildings more efficient would reduce the projected energy use of Michigan’s buildings 32 percent by 2030. These enormous energy savings translate directly into financial savings in the form of reduced energy bills. The average Michigan family of four can expect to save $1,850 per year by 2050.

“We have barely scratched the surface of what’s possible with energy efficiency in buildings,” said Mike Shriberg, Policy Director at Ecology Center. “Our state lawmakers should enact PACE, increase our energy efficiency standards and follow all paths to clean energy recommended by the ReEnergize Michigan coalition.”