Policy Interventions to Catalyze Uptake of Energy Efficiency Upgrades in the US

2020-01-24T16:08:51Z (GMT) by Hetal Parekh
Over 50% of the US building stock pre-dates 1970 - many of these buildings have low performing, outdated and inefficient equipment and systems resulting in an energy intensive building stock (US EIA, 2015). The US commercial building energy retrofit market is estimated at $72 billion and it is projected that retrofitting commercial buildings pre-dating 1980 to reduce energy use by 30%, could result in $280
billion energy savings and an influx of 850,000 cumulative job years over 10 years. Despite the potential for tremendous savings, the overall uptake of energy efficiency projects still remains low in the US due to multiple unaddressed market and non-market barriers. This thesis is an extensive tripartite qualitative research into concerns about inaction by many commercial building decision makers and policy intervention to overcome this inaction. The first component in the thesis is a descriptive analysis identifying and analyzing the key barriers and then mapping policy tools to address each barrier. The chief finding from this analysis component is the need to overcome the knowledge barriers regarding external financing for energy retrofits. The second component is a policy analysis to evaluate existing policy mechanisms and possible alternatives. The chief finding from this analysis component is the viability of policy intervention through provision of financing decision support
tools. Building on the first two findings, the third component focuses on the formulation of a policy tool to effectively leverage resources for external financing through an aggregated, streamlined and simplified framework. Such a resource could provide decision makers with holistic support through the entire cycle - from understanding and identifying available programs, to assessing qualification and application process through its three modules –
1. Interface Module: Minimal user input and granular, simplified data output
2. Database Module: An aggregated repository of external financing program information
3. Process Module: Input dependent calculated fields for simplified cash-flow analysis.
This research provides three main contributions to the literature, each representing one of three dissertation components. This dissertation provides:
• Policy makers detailed insights into the barriers inhibiting commercial building decision makers
from investing in energy retrofits.
• Energy efficiency program designers with an evaluation of the impact of different policy efforts to address the barriers.
• Commercial building decision makers with access to a policy tool in the form of a ‘retrofit financing decision support’ resource that comprises of:
(a) Simplified Economic Assessment Information: cash-flow analysis for 14 external financing vehicles to commercial building decision makers and
(b) A comprehensive external financing database to provide granular information by geography, building type, financing source and energy conservation method.
The findings from each component of the research is further substantiated through feedback from stakeholders in the form of focus group and semi-structured interviews. Based on the stakeholder feedback, the proposed program metrics can effectively help building owners, business owners and
building managers navigate through what they view as a challenging financing process for energy retrofits.