Nearly nine out of 10 higher education facility leaders expect to increase or maintain energy efficiency investments next year, according to a new study commissioned by Schneider Electric and the Alliance to Save Energy.
The survey found that energy efficiency is recognized among U.S. higher education institutions as key to fulfilling their core mission.
Notably, 88 percent of respondents also agree that energy efficiency is the most cost effective way to meet their energy needs while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cutting costs.
The biggest factor driving schools' energy efficiency efforts is cost savings, according to the survey, with environmental benefits and industry standards rounding out the top three reasons for becoming more energy efficient.
But obstacles exist to achieving these objectives, the survey shows. Although 92 percent of respondents stated that their school had a culture that encourages energy efficiency practices, organizational barriers are challenging their ability to achieve efficiency goals. More than half (59 percent) view this as the biggest obstacle, with insufficient funding and lack of a clear definition of success also ranking highly.
Another factor impacting institutions is aging infrastructure, with 59 percent indicating that the average age of their buildings exceeds 15 years, and only one in five reporting that the average age of their building is below 10 years. As facility leaders look to upgrade existing buildings, compatibility with new technology ranks as most important when considering making an investment. Compatibility with legacy systems outranked quality of the product and technology advancements of the solution.
Last year, Chevrolet helped develop a formula where US colleges and universities can earn money for certain energy efficiency upgrades that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as part of a voluntary carbon-reduction initiative.
Energy efficiency is estimated to be a multi-hundred-billion dollar investment opportunity in the United States, but better policies are required to unlock broad-based financing from institutional investors, according to a 2013 report by Ceres and its Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR). A more recent report, released last month by the Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) Institute, made an even more encouraging claim: renewable energy and energy efficiency are competitive resources in today’s marketplace that are expected to grow strictly on the basis of cost.