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Report: Energy Efficiency Spend Will Rebound

A new survey reports more than half of corporate leaders involved in managing energy costs and investments expect to make capital investments in energy efficiency programs this year.

The fourth annual Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) survey from Johnson Controls, which polled more than 1,400 executives, says energy efficiency will rebound following a decline last year. The study states 52 percent, (up from 46 percent in 2009), are planning to make capital investments in energy efficiency and 60 percent are planning (up from 55 percent) to make operating budget expenditures in efficiency programs over the next 12 months. A significant number of those surveyed (38 percent) said the largest barrier to making energy efficiency investments is limited capital availability.

"Our research shows attention to energy efficiency is continuing its growth among business leaders," said Dave Myers, president of Johnson Controls Building Efficiency business, in a press statement. "Commercial buildings consume 18 percent of the energy and 35 percent of electricity used in the U.S. each year. A focus on improving energy efficiency in existing buildings is the best way to address carbon reduction goals being set by a growing number of organizations."

According to this year's survey, 65 percent of business leaders say they are paying more attention to energy efficiency than they did one year ago; 84 percent say energy efficiency is a priority for new construction and retrofit projects planned for this year.

The most important factor influencing energy efficiency decisions is energy cost savings, with 97 percent of respondents identifying it as significant. Sixty four percent expect energy prices to rise in 2010. Overall the average expectation of respondents is a 7 percent increase in the combined price of energy over the next 12 months.

The next most important factors influencing energy efficiency decisions are enhanced public image (63 percent), government and utility incentives (62 percent), and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (62 percent). The climate concern is growing in importance, up from 57 percent that considered greenhouse gas reduction a significant factor in 2009.

Seventy-five percent of decision makers believe significant legislation mandating energy efficiency and/or carbon reduction is likely within the next two years, compared to 85 percent in 2009 and 76 percent in 2008.

"Interestingly, despite a slight drop in expectations for climate legislation this year, more organizations are setting voluntary carbon reduction goals," said Clay Nesler, VP, Global Energy and Sustainability, Johnson Controls. "Organizations are using a variety of strategies to meet these commitments, but the vast majority identify energy efficiency in buildings as their top climate strategy."

When asked what specific energy efficiency improvements have been implemented over the past 12 months, the most popular are those with low capital cost or a rapid return on investment.

The survey shows that 72 percent switched to energy efficient lighting; 63 percent trained facilities staff; 61 percent educated building occupants to save energy; 56 percent made set point adjustments; 40 percent installed occupancy or daylight sensors; and 33 percent upgraded building controls.

Executives were also asked to predict what energy-related technologies would see the greatest improvement in performance-to-price ratio over the next 10 years. The top picks were lighting (51 percent), smart building technology (44 percent), solar PV (38 percent), electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles (28 percent) and nuclear power (22 percent).

The EEI survey tracks energy management priorities, practices and investment plans among decision makers responsible for commercial buildings and their energy use. Johnson Controls is currently conducting the survey in other parts of the world including China, France, Germany, India, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom, with results to be released at events during the summer of 2010.

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