Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has become an increasingly visible leader in the green building movement because of his foundation’s quest to develop new products and solutions to slash energy usage and reduce carbon emissions worldwide.
Along with delivering the keynote speech at the recent GreenBuild conference, held Nov. 7-9 in Chicago, in the past year he has announced several new partnerships to improve the energy efficiency of hundreds of millions of square feet of public and private real estate throughout the United States.
The former president used the GreenBuild conference to announce that his foundation’s Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) will help Chicago retrofit the Sears Tower and the Merchandise Mart, as well as privately-owned housing around the city. He also announced at GreenBuild that CCI will help GE Real Estate identify and implement building retrofit projects across its global real estate portfolio, and that it will create a Green Schools Program to retrofit schools and universities across America in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).
President Clinton said in a press release, “The tools we need to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions exist today. When it comes to climate change, the hurdles we face aren’t technological, they’re organizational, which is why my foundation is partnering with cities, businesses, nonprofits and schools alike to design systems and programs that reduce energy consumption.”
The partnership with GE Real Estate could have potentially huge implications because the company is one of the world’s largest commercial real estate firms, with more than $72 billion in assets and more than 385 million square feet in 31 countries throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Australia/New Zealand.
“The Clinton Climate Initiative and GE Real Estate share the view that improving the environmental performance of existing properties is essential toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing property efficiencies, positively impacting the health of tenants and thereby improving the value of our properties,” said Ron Pressman, president & CEO, GE Real Estate. “As one of the world’s largest owners of commercial properties with thousands of buildings in our portfolio and more added each year, we believe we can make a significant, positive impact on the environment while benefiting our business.”
The CCI initiative was launched in August 2006 by the Clinton Foundation to apply a business-oriented approach to the fight against climate change in practical, measurable and significant ways. As part of its first phase, CCI started working with cities around the world to accelerate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and Toronto are the North American cities now participating in the Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program, which was launched in May 2007. This program brings together eight of the world’s largest energy-service companies (ESCOs), five of the world’s largest banks, and seventeen of the world’s largest cities to reduce energy consumption in existing buildings. The program provides cities and their private building owners with access to funds to retrofit existing buildings with more energy-efficient products.
The four largest energy services companies in the world — Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Siemens and Trane — have agreed to scale up their capacity to perform building retrofits in participating cities. They also have agreed to provide performance contracts to financially guarantee the energy savings that will result from their retrofit projects. Five major global financial institutions — ABN AMRO, Citi, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase and UBS — have agreed to finance the first generation of retrofit projects. Backed by this financing, cities and private building owners will be able to do audits and retrofits of their buildings at no net cost, with paybacks for the bank loans plus interest coming from the energy savings that retrofit projects achieve over several years. These banks have each committed to arrange $1 billion for this effort for a total pool of $5 billion, which will more than double the total global market for energy-saving retrofits in buildings.
Also part of the CCI is a purchasing consortium involving 25 manufacturers of energy-efficient products, including indoor lighting, clean vehicles, traffic and street lighting, building products and waste management technologies. Participating electrical manufacturers include GE, Philips Lighting, Cooper Lighting, Osram Sylvania, Acuity Lighting, and LED manufacturers Dialight, Lemnis Lighting and Leotek.
Participating cities will have access to hundreds of individual products that reduce energy consumption in buildings, decrease fuel consumption and pollution by vehicles and capture and convert landfill methane into electricity. These and additional products will be offered to interested municipal governments at discounted prices ranging from 5 to 15 percent below current levels for commodity items and from 15 to 70 percent below current levels for non-commodity items.
A big player in the CCI is Wal-Mart. According to the Clinton Foundation, the company is one of the largest private sector purchasers of green technologies. CCI and Wal-Mart will use their combined purchasing resources to further drive down the prices of green technologies. Additionally, CCI and Wal-Mart will work together to identify and examine new energy-efficient products, such as LED parking lot lights and best-in-class HVAC systems, and new methods to procure and utilize clean energy, such as solar power.
“This shows what can be achieved when business, government and the non-profit sector work together on some of the biggest challenges facing the world today,” said Lee Scott, president and CEO of Wal-Mart. “By combining our resources, we can help drive innovation, create new technology markets and ultimately reduce this country’s dependence on foreign oil.”