Global interest and investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy is on the rise: 70 percent of organizations are paying more attention to energy efficiency than a year ago, and 58 percent are expecting to increase investments next year. These are the findings of the 2017 Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) survey of more than 1,500 facility and management executives in the U.S., Canada, and 10 other countries.

renewable energy
Renewable energy solar power plant using parabolic through mirrors, Harper Dry Lake, CA. (Credit: Tom Brakefield)

Cost reduction remained the most important driver for investments globally, with 77 percent rating it as a very or extremely significant factor in driving investments. In the U.S. and Canada, greenhouse gas emissions reduction and energy security were the most significant drivers at 92 percent and 91 percent, respectively. These factors were ranked second and third in the global results and represent the highest ranking for greenhouse gas emissions reductions since the survey began.

Consistent with previous year’s studies, investments in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment was the most popular improvement made last year, reported by 75 percent of respondents. However, when asked about planned investments over the coming year, onsite renewable energy leads with 57 percent of organizations planning to invest. Energy storage is gaining momentum as well, with 48 percent of organizations planning to make investments in the next year.

Increased investment in on-site renewable and electric storage may be driven by increasing interest in net zero energy buildings and facility resilience. Fifty-four percent of organizations are planning to achieve near zero, net zero or energy positive status for at least one building within the next 10 years. Seventy-one percent of respondents state that maintaining critical operations during severe weather events or extended power outages is very or extremely important when considering future infrastructure investments. Additionally, 52 percent of respondents say they are very or extremely likely to have one or more facilities able to operate off the grid in the next 10 years.

“While the survey was completed before the recent wave of hurricanes, it shows the growing attention being paid to resilience,” said Rod Rushing, president, Building Solutions, North America at Building Technologies & Solutions, Johnson Controls. “Smart, sustainable buildings served by distributed energy resources and energy storage can provide the added security that building owners are looking for around the globe.”

Government policy continues to be important, with 52 percent of organizations rating it as a very or extremely significant driver for investment. When asked to identify the most effective policies driving investments in energy improvement, 83 percent of survey participants ranked building performance benchmarking and certification as very or extremely important, followed closely (81 percent) by government leadership in leasing, building design and retrofits.

“Benchmarking and certification of building performance are important drivers of investment and improvement,” said Clay Nesler, vice president, global energy and sustainability at Johnson Controls. “Programs like EnergyStar® and green building rating systems provide a means of measuring and comparing building performance while providing recognition for efforts to improve efficiency, health, comfort, productivity and other outcomes.”

Smart buildings continue to gain momentum, with 46 percent of global respondents investing in building systems integration last year. The top four building systems that have already been integrated with other building systems include energy management (43 percent), lighting (43 percent), security (40 percent) and life safety (38 percent). More than 80 percent of organizations plan to integrate their building systems in the future.

2017 marks the 11th year Johnson Controls has conducted EEI surveys, which analyze energy efficiency and renewable energy plans, practices and investments among executive-level decision makers responsible for energy and facility management in buildings. This year’s respondents come from 12 countries, representing the world’s major economic regions and a variety of commercial, institutional and government facility portfolios. These countries include the U.S., Canada, Poland, France, Mexico, Argentina, India, Singapore, China, Colombia, Brazil and Germany.

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