The single-biggest source of carbon pollution in most U.S. cities is the building sector. Generating energy to supply buildings in Kansas City, for instance, produces 60 percent of the city’s carbon pollution; in Salt Lake City, it adds up to 74 percent. Large buildings account for about 2 percent of the number of buildings within a city, but 35 percent to 60 percent of the area. Generating the power to heat, cool, and light this area causes carbon pollution. Yet much of the energy in these buildings is wasted.
Together with the Institute for Market Transformation, NRDC launched the City Energy Project to cut energy waste in large buildings and make American cities healthier, more prosperous places to live. We partner with civic leaders and businesses in 10 cities to save consumers up to $1 billion in energy bills every year and to reduce carbon pollution by 5 million to 7 million tons annually—the equivalent of taking 1 million to 1.5 million cars off the road every year.
NRDC experts collaborate with each city to develop a tailored set of proven policies and programs that dramatically improve the energy performance of its buildings. We encourage them to lead by example, ramping up efficiency in public buildings. And we work with the private sector to remove barriers to investments in efficiency. We encourage policies and programs to continually improve the equipment and operations of buildings.
We have identified several key strategies. Providing information about energy use helps building owners and managers cut waste. Aligning financial incentives gives owners the capital they need to invest in efficiency and ensures they accrue benefits from these investments. And helping buildings operate better can account for roughly half of all efficiency improvements—all with little to no capital investment.
To support these advances, NRDC encourages cities to share best practices and learn from each other, creating far better results than a go-it-alone approach.