Houston City Energy Project: Moving Towards an Energy-Efficient Future

The City of Houston has a strong history of implementing cost-effective and practical energy efficiency projects that grow the economy and improve the bottom line of building tenants and owners. The Houston City Energy Project builds upon this legacy, with an eye on establishing a competitive advantage for the City through energy-efficient buildings. Efficient buildings are not only more cost-effective, but also provide healthier and more comfortable spaces to live, play, and work—qualities that attract top talent and investment. By developing and implementing best-in-class programs designed to cut energy waste, boost the local economy, reduce harmful pollution, and create healthier buildings, the Houston City Energy Project aims to make Houston not only the energy capital of the world, but also the global energy efficiency capital.

Why Buildings Matter
Buildings present a massive untapped opportunity for reducing costs. The average building wastes 30 percent of the energy it consumes due to inefficiencies. Increasing energy efficiency in Houston’s large buildings will drastically reduce waste and save building owners and tenants money on their utility bills. A more-efficient building can lead to increased occupant comfort and productivity as well as reduced environmental impacts and operating expenses.

Solidifying Houston’s Energy Efficiency Legacy
Private-sector and city leaders have taken great strides to address energy use in buildings:

  • Houston is among the top 10 cities in the United States with the most ENERGY STAR®-certified buildings.
  • In 2004, Houston adopted a Green Building Resolution which set a target of LEED® Silver for new City construction, replacement facilities, and major renovations of more than 10,000 square feet.
  • The Municipal Energy Efficiency Program has utilized energy performance contracts to retrofit 5.2 million square feet since 2008. Those buildings are achieving energy reductions approaching 30 percent, with average paybacks of less than 10 years.
  • The Houston Green Office Challenge is a friendly competition for commercial property managers and office tenants that celebrates achievements in greening operations through Mayoral and media recognition. The Challenge helps participants improve their sustainability and work toward third-party green building certifications such as ENERGY STAR and LEED.

The Houston City Energy Project will collaborate with existing efforts to continue to elevate energy performance as a central criterion for defining and distinguishing value in buildings.

How the City Energy Project Works
Through the Houston City Energy Project, the city will tailor a plan to advance energy efficiency and reduce waste in large buildings, which represent roughly 50 percent of the citywide square footage. This plan will leverage existing energy efficiency initiatives with new, complementary strategies to create more impact than any single program or initiative would have.

The Houston City Energy Project will help unlock the value of building efficiency by working to develop energy efficiency solutions that are unique, flexible, and support the following goals:

  • Promote efficient building operations. Strong building energy performance will be achieved through efficient operations and maintenance and the training of facilities personnel.
  • Encourage private investment. Common-sense solutions to financial and legal barriers to energy efficiency will increase private investment in building energy improvements.
  • Showcase City leadership. Houston will lead by example and reduce taxpayer-funded energy consumption in municipal buildings, and encourage the private sector to match the City’s actions.
  • Promote transparency. Building energy performance information will be transparent and accessible to spur market demand and competition for energy-efficient buildings.

Through these efforts, the Houston City Energy Project is projected to cut 816,728 tons of carbon emissions from local buildings annually–an amount equal to the carbon footprint of 68,377 homes’ energy use per year.  This effort is also expected to lower energy bills by as much as $115 million annually.

Moving Forward
The Houston City Energy Project will help large building owners and operators reduce energy consumption, save money, and reduce carbon pollution while expanding Houston’s energy services economy, encouraging the growth of clean energy jobs, and keeping Houston competitive. Improved energy efficiency in buildings can bring a wide array of appreciable benefits for the health and wellbeing of occupants as well as improved asset values.

 

Image credit: VisitHouston.com

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