Feds unwrap $15M for financial, retail company energy reduction

It's hard to imagine they are worried about their energy bills right now but the Bank of America and the PNC Financial Services Group were among the 21 leading financial, retail and real estate companies to get part of a $15 million technical assistance package from the government to build and adopt energy-efficient technologies.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced the first phase of $15 million awards to retailers Best Buy, JCPenney, John Deere, Macy's, SuperValu, Target, Toyota, and Whole Foods Market. Commercial Real Estate Firms such as CB Richard Ellis, Forest City Enterprises as well as the financial groups also saw some of the money.

Along with the money the companies will have access to the DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to design, build, tune and operate at least one new prototype building and to retrofit an existing building project. The goal is to reduce energy costs by 50% above the standard set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers for new commercial building designs, and a savings of 30% for retrofits to existing buildings, the DOE said.

The funding provides access to the labs unique expertise in low-energy building design and will provide insight into private sector decision processes, business models, and financial drivers for achieving low-energy buildings, the DOE said. The idea is that these buildings experts will use cutting-edge efficiency technologies and on-site renewable energy generation to offset their energy use from the electricity grid.  The DOE also expects that whatever is developed between the labs and the companies can be replicated across the country.

The funding is part of the DOE's overarching Net-Zero Energy Commercial Building Initiative (CBI).  The DOE defines a net zero-energy building (ZEB) in part anyway as a is a residential or commercial building with greatly reduced energy needs through efficiency gains such that the balance of energy needs can be supplied with renewable technologies.

The DOE said that in 2007, commercial buildings consumed about 19% of US energy and accounted for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions.  In May, DOE said it finished energy assessments of 500 of the nation's largest industrial facilities. Those assessments helped companies identify opportunities to save over an estimated 80 trillion British Thermal Units of natural gas - roughly equivalent to the natural gas used in over one million American homes - more than $800 million in potential energy savings.

The DOE in February said it would dole out almost $21 million for a total of 13 projects aimed at advancing solid-state lighting (SSL) research and product development.  The agency said it wants to accelerate solid-state lighting technology from the lab to the marketplace because it has the potential to more than double the efficiency of lighting systems, significantly reduce its carbon footprint and transform the environment.  

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