The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star program has enlisted millions of consumers into the fight against climate change while helping them save $430 billion on their utility bills. By simply promoting energy-efficient solutions, the program has forever changed consumer mentality and clean-energy finance.
This objective, voluntary, federally funded program transcends socioeconomic classes, political positions, and belief in climate science. Whether it is changing simple kitchen appliances or multi-million-dollar housing complexes, Energy Star improves the design of products, reduces the energy they use, and saves consumers money.
As we navigate the greatest transition in energy since whale oil was replaced by petroleum, decision makers now have a broad range of alternative fuel sources. The energy race has launched solar, wind, and biofuel into becoming legitimate contenders and put the fossil fuel industry on its heels.
However, the advancements in energy production and storage will prove futile if there is not parallel commitment to energy efficiency. With the world population expected to reach 9.7 billion by year 2050, programs such as Energy Star are critical to energy security and our planet’s sustainability.
This dynamic program has bent the rigid relationship between environmental consciousness and fiscal conservatism. Programs such as Energy Star allow consumers to still make decisions with their wallets without sacrificing their social ideals.
According to the Office of Atmospheric Programs 2014 Annual Report, “For every incremental dollar Americans invested in energy efficiency through Energy Star, they saved, on average, $4.50 on their energy bills and prevented more than 35 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.”
This past April, 1,050 United States organizations banded together and wrote a letter to President Trump highlighting the impact of the program and urging this administration to support it. The following is an excerpt from that letter:
“This voluntary program is a cost-effective, market-based tool helping businesses, consumers, homeowners, state and local governments, schools, and other organizations save money by investing in energy efficiency. This contributes to economic growth, reduces harmful emissions, increases our energy security, and improves the reliability of our electric system by reducing peak demand. For many homeowners, consumers, and businesses, Energy Star has provided the catalyst to invest in energy efficiency.”
These organizations, ranging from religious groups to architects, stood up to defend the program that they have seen transform industries and rewrite the future of clean-energy finance.
In May of 2017, Congress followed suit.
Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) organized an alliance of 55 of their House colleagues and sent a letter to President Trump in support of Energy Star. This bipartisan coalition highlighted the impact of the Energy Star program and discussed the importance of its survival. Tonko and Kinzinger wrote, “Energy Star successfully overcomes market barriers to energy efficiency by awarding a simple, clear symbol that gives consumers confidence that they are buying a highly efficient product.”
Beyond the social, economic and environmental benefits mentioned above, arguably the greatest benefit of Energy Star is that it establishes a national standard for home efficiency. Chrissa Pagitsas, director of Green Financing Business at Fannie Mae, played a fundamental role in establishing that standard. Her team led the effort to establish the Energy Star’s Multifamily 1 to 100 score.
Pagitsas said the Energy Star program adds value for financing. “The valuable thing about Energy Star is that you can compare a property in Arkansas to a property in New York, once their energy data is put into the system. The program factors in all the things about the property. It will come out saying the Arkansas property is fifteen and the New York property is a sixteen or vice versa. You are able to take two very different properties and compare them apples-to-apples.”
Further, this national standard is not only utilized for investment evaluation, but is also the cornerstone of other popular certifications. Specifically, buildings pursuing the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED certification must incorporate Energy Star.
According to the USGBC’s site, “Energy Star gives users the tools they need to reach a higher level of building energy performance, therefore positioning them closer to the standards required for LEED certification. In short, Energy Star helps make LEED possible.”
With over 30,000 buildings from every corner of the country now registered in the Energy Star Data Base, the real-estate industry has demonstrated the demand for more efficient housing options and has selected Energy Star to meet that demand.