The discussion of solutions to climate change often turns toward cutting-edge renewable energy technology, hybrids cars, and solar panels, but one of the easiest, most cost effective, and quickest ways to reduce our carbon footprint is simply through greater efficiency of the energy we now use. Much of that energy is used in lighting, heating, and cooling the buildings in which we live and work.
According to the Energy Information Administration the building sector comprises 48 percent of the increase in carbon gas emissions since 1990. In urban areas, up to 80% of carbon emissions come from buildings.
In most urban areas like Cambridge many of the buildings are decades old, built without sufficient insulation or energy efficient building materials, using inefficient heating and lighting systems. Retrofitting these building will mean a huge reduction in energy use and carbon emissions. The challenge is implementing such a massive retrofit of buildings on a national scale.
A program in Cambridge Massachusetts may provide a model for bringing efficiency into the mainstream, making it feasible, both economically and practically, for businesses, governments, and individual home owners to save money, energy, and even help save the planet.
Cambridge Energy Alliance
The Cambridge Energy Alliance is a non-profit city-sponsored program that makes available to home owners, institutions, and businesses an opportunity for a complete energy audit, retrofit, and financing – all in a relatively easy one-stop program.
Recently featured on the PBS series NOW, the program aims to reach half of the buildings in Cambridge, helping participants cut energy use by 15 to 30%. The program then provides financing for building upgrades through loans that can “pay for themselves” through the energy saved.
Another benefit of the Alliance is helping create jobs in the “green collar” sector. New building materials and techniques require specialized skills that provide jobs and business opportunities in an otherwise downturned building market.
If successful, the model of the CEA may prove a key factor in emissions reduction, energy savings, and jobs.