I’m not going to be able to say it better:

Any successful climate protection strategy must consider residential and commercial buildings, which are responsible for almost 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. From houses and hotels to schools and skyscrapers, buildings in the United States use about 40 percent of the country’s energy for lighting, heating, cooling, and appliance operation. It is estimated that the manufacture, transport, and assembly of building materials such as wood, concrete, and steel account for another eight percent of energy use. About 30 percent of the electricity buildings use is generated from coal-burning power plants, which release greenhouse gases, causing climate change. (Source: Environmental and Energy Studies Institute)

These types of improvements are often cited as the first line of defense, because reducing energy use/increasing efficiency is going to reduce fossil fuel use no matter where your electricity is coming from, and just because you switch to renewable energy doesn’t mean it’s OK to waste energy. It’s just common sense, right?

While are are many exciting movement towards designing completely self-sustainable communitiessustainable architecture, smart buildings and smart homes, every person who uses electricity today can already start to make a difference (and save themselves money). Often it’s through behavior change, such as remembering to turn the lights off or to shorten your daily showers, and sometimes it could be through home improvements or smarter appliances, or changing to LED light bulbs. There are apps (and probably new ones being developed every day) to help people make these improvements. Have you heard of Nest and Google Home?  Lots of players entering this space, and it seems like there’s a lot of room for growth. Home and office improvements such as energy efficient windows and caulking are additional activities. On the other end of the spectrum, any sustainable city strategy will be engaged with buildings and energy.

The IEA 2016 Energy Efficiency Report states:

  • Energy efficiency levels in IEA member countries improved, on average, by 14% between 2000 and 2015. This generated energy savings of 450 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2015, enough to power Japan for a full year. These savings also reduced total energy expenditure by 540 billion United States Dollars (USD) in 2015, mostly in buildings and industry.
  • The IEA estimates that global investment in energy efficiency was USD 221 billion in 2015, an increase of 6% from 2014.
  • In 2015, energy service companies (ESCOs), whose primary business model is delivering energy efficiency solutions, had a total turnover of USD 24 billion. ESCO revenues in the United States were USD 6.4 billion in 2015, more than doubling over the past ten years.
  • Evidence indicates that the energy efficiency market will grow in the coming years.

Awesome! High Fives! Huge potential. Where to start? Get an energy audit. Can’t find anyone?  Learn how to do it yourself then offer it as a service! Start a home shopping network for home energy efficiency products with customer reviews!  Study sustainable architecture! What are some other ideas you can think of?

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