Portland, Maine – Maine families could save $2,200 every year on their energy bills by 2030 if the government invests in the energy efficiency of our buildings today, according to a new report by Environment Maine. Saving energy in our buildings would also help Maine’s fight against global warming by reducing projected greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 34 percent.
“Let’s not waste any more time, any more energy, or any more money on outdated buildings,” said Environment Maine Field Associate, Grant Harris. “We need to invest in efficiency today so we can start building a better tomorrow.”
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 National Academy of Sciences estimates that widespread use of today’s technology would increase energy efficiency by up to 30 percent in existing buildings by 2030, and with the rapid march of technological innovation and increased investment in efficiency from governments and consumers, much bigger gains are possible.
Environment Maine’s report, Building Better: How High-Efficiency Buildings Will Save Money and Reduce Global Warming, analyzes the benefits Maine would see if the state 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 Portland is on an aggressive timeline to cut down on energy costs and to save money through energy savings
“Portland is on an aggressive timeline to cut down on energy costs and to save money through energy savings”, says Dave Marshall, Portland City Councilor and member of the energy and sustainability council.
Making our buildings more efficient would reduce the projected energy use of Maine’s 34 percent by 2030. That would conserve enough energy every year to power 1.3million homes.
These enormous energy savings translate directly into financial savings in the form of reduced energy bills. The average Maine family of four can expect to save nearly $2,200 a year by 2030, which is 32 percent lower than what they would be paying without the improvements in building efficiency.
“That’s the best part about making energy efficiency improvements,” said Harris. “They pay for themselves as consumers enjoy lower energy bills and a cleaner environment year after year.”
Reduced energy consumption in Maine would also prevent the emission of 3.3 million tons of global warming pollution every year by 2030, which is equivalent to taking 600,000cars off the road.
“We as builders, designers, and homeowners would be very shortsighted indeed to resist upfront investments in the energy efficiency for the sake of fractionally lower construction costs,” said Chris Briley, an architect with Green Design Studio in Yarmouth. “It’s one thing to own a drafty, poorly insulated, and inefficient home that ignores the path of the sun. It’s another completely, to set out and build one. Yet, this is still the status quo.”
Programs to promote more efficient buildings are popping up all over the country. More than a dozen states, including Maine, have updated their building codes since the start of 2009, and more than 20 others are currently in the process of doing so. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $16 billion for efficiency-boosting retrofit and weatherization programs, and Congress is now considering major initiatives like HOME STAR and Building STAR that would provide financial incentives for efficiency improvements in residential and commercial buildings.
Environment Maine is calling for policies that will help us reach our efficiency goals, including:
- Steady improvements to building codes over time so that all new buildings are increasingly efficient, culminating in a zero net energy standard by 2030. This means that in 20 years, every new building that is constructed will be so efficient that it can produce all the power it needs right onsite from renewable sources like solar panels or wind turbines.
- Investing in energy retrofits and weatherization to improve the efficiency of existing buildings 30 percent by 2030.
- Supporting innovative financing mechanisms that will unleash public and private investment in building efficiency.
“There are already thousands of super-efficient buildings all around the country, one such example being the new LEED Platinum Hannaford supermarket in Augusta.” concluded Harris. “Most buildings last for decades, so investing in energy efficiency locks in savings for years to come and builds a strong foundation for the future of our environment and our economy.”
Environment Maine is a statewide, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water, and open spaces.