Energy efficiency projects can reduce a building's impact on the environment and save the building owner money on the annual energy bill. However, these types of projects typically require an upfront infusion of cash. In a down economy, carving this cash out of a sometimes tight budget isn't always easy. However, a new report by the Institute for Building Efficiency shows that despite the worldwide recession, investments in energy efficiency projects have remained strong.

The report also shows two other factors that are influencing energy efficiency spending: government tax programs and incentives, and the public's perception of the company or project. Yes, as consumers, we like to see a building that is more energy-efficient and companies and building owners are realizing the value in that.

The 2010 Energy Efficiency Indicator (PDF) study surveyed nearly 3,000 individuals in 36 countries. Since energy efficiency is a global trend, it was important that a wide variety of countries be represented including Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition to including responses from a variety of countries, several different levels of management were included in the survey. About 30 percent were C-level executives, 36 percent were vice presidents and general managers, and 22 percent were facility managers.

These individuals come from all sized businesses in several different industries with respondents in manufacturing and healthcare representing the largest portion of survey respondents at 12 percent in each industry. Other industries represented in the survey include information and communication technology, construction, retail and government.

What this shows is that building energy efficiency is a growing trend across all sectors and around the world. In fact, 92 percent of those surveyed stated that energy management is a priority. More respondents from India and China consider it very or extremely important when compared to those from Europe or North America. Sadly, only 53 percent of North American-based respondents considered energy efficiency to be at least a very important priority.

Despite being considered moderately important by companies here in North America, well more than half will be investing in energy efficiency projects during the next 12 months. According to the survey, 69 percent of North Americans surveyed will be laying out capital expenditures for energy efficiency in the next year and 73 percent have operating expenditures planned. When looking at China, these numbers are 92 percent and 95 percent respectively. The global averages were also higher with 75 percent of companies planning capital expenditures and 80 percent planning operating expenditures.

Energy efficiency in China is booming. Alternative fuel vehicles in China are booming. Renewable energy in China is booming. China is in a great position to be the green economy leader and with a country the size of China, the impacts that they make with energy efficiency can have a positive effect globally. However, companies here in the United States and across North America need to get more fired up about energy efficiency. This is one arena where we don't want to be left behind.

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