Investment in Clean Energy and Better Buildings Goes Together


The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recently released a report about potential benefits from the United States’ proposed investments in infrastructure, which are currently being discussed by Congress. 

Here are quick key takeaways from the report, which was written by the Council’s Lowell Ungar, Steven Nadel, and Jim Barrett, and builds on their 2020 whitepaper, Growing a Greener Economy: Job and Climate Impacts from Energy Efficiency Investments.

Federal infrastructure investment is good for jobs, the environment, and the economy

The authors note that the federal plan would ensure “more than 4 million more people working for a year (job-years), nearly 4 billion tons of reduced carbon dioxide emissions, and more than $300 billion in net consumer savings.” 

Long-term results go beyond jobs

While the authors report that “the most transformational long-term market impacts of the policies examined would come from support for transformative industrial technologies, large-scale commercialization of efficient electric heat pumps for space and water heating, and new zero-energy homes and commercial buildings,” the climate benefits of each of these technologies extends even further.

Long-term advantages from a range of technologies

In addition to heat pumps and heat pump water heaters, the authors recommend “commercializing new low-carbon industrial technologies, and building new zero-energy homes and commercial buildings.” Over time, suggests the earlier whitepaper, “the investments would reduce CO2 emissions by more than 900 million metric tons (MMT)—equivalent to the emissions of nearly 200 million cars and light trucks for a year.”

Going beyond better buildings

The report points out that infrastructure investment means better buildings, with proposed investments focusing largely on homes and commercial buildings. However, it goes further, with investments supporting electric vehicles, transportation infrastructure, manufacturing plants, small businesses, states, and cities. As the whitepaper states, “Electric vehicles (EVs), deep energy retrofits of homes and commercial buildings, and new industrial management and practices all are critical pathways to a low-carbon economy.”

Private capital could leverage the infrastructure plan for further benefits

Private investments can take advantage of growth in the sector. The authors suggest the areas that have potential here are “heat pump water heaters, some industrial programs, commercial building improvements, and electric trucks.” 

However, there’s additional potential for investment in generating the clean energy to power these activities. Besides the potential for developing geothermal energy through heat pumps, further attention should be paid to cleantech investments like solar, wind, and wave generation technologies. 

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