Last week, President Obama and the White House announced a program that will fund nearly $4 billion in combined federal and private sector energy upgrades for federal, commercial and institutional buildings over the next 2 years. According to a White House press release, these investments will save billions in energy costs, promote energy independence, and, according to independent estimates, create tens of thousands of jobs in the hard-hit construction sector. The investment includes a $2 billion commitment, made through the issuance of a Presidential Memorandum, to energy upgrades of federal buildings using long term energy savings to pay for up-front costs, at no cost to taxpayers.

In addition, 60 CEOs, mayors, university presidents, and labor leaders also committed to invest nearly $2 billion of private capital into energy efficiency projects; and to upgrade energy performance by a minimum of 20% by 2020 in 1.6 billion square feet of office, industrial, municipal, hospital, university, community college and school buildings.

Both the public and private commitments are part of an initiative known as the Better Buildings Challenge that was launched in February and is being lead by President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness with a big assist from President Clinton.

According to the White House press release, on the day the White House made the announcement, several companies based in or who have a presence in Connecticut also announced they had made Better Buildings commitments to support this effort. In alphabetical order, they include,

3M, which owns 3M Purification Inc. (formally CUNO) based in Meriden, CT and is a diversified technology company serving customers and communities with innovative products and services operating in more than 65 countries, to date, has cut absolute worldwide GHG emissions 72% from 1990-2010. With 78 plants committed to the Challenge, 3M aims to reduce energy use an additional 25% by 2015 in 37 million square feet of building space. Through the Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge, 3M will maintain a focus on transparency around a capital set aside for energy efficiency projects, and highlight an innovative recognition program that rewards top performing plants.

Alcoa, with facilities in Winsted, CT and Branford, CT, has made a commitment of improving energy efficiency by 25% across 30 million square feet of industrial plant space by the year 2020. Alcoa's portfolio for the Challenge consists of 30 plants, which currently consume 42 trillion BTUs of energy. Alcoa will be showcasing a $21M investment in an expansion of its Barberton, Ohio facility. This project involves a new 35,000 square foot building to advance the company's recycling and casting process by producing new wheels from re-melted and scrap aluminum. This will be the first of its kind in North America and is expected to create 30 full-time jobs and help protect more than 350 current positions.

GE, based in Fairfield, CT, works on things that matter. In 2010, GE achieved a 33 percent improvement in its own energy intensity, a 24% reduction in its GHG emissions (both from a 2004 baseline) and 22% improvement in its water re-use (from a 2006 baseline). In 2010, GE set new, more aggressive targets for 2015: A 50 percent energy intensity improvement, 25% GHG emissions reduction, and a 25% water reduction, from the same baselines across more than 105 million square feet.

GE Capital Americas, with offices in Danbury, CT (GECA) will shape a credit strike zone and profitability model for commercial building energy efficiency projects that will lead to financeable opportunities of $50MM+. GECA will use its best efforts to create financial products to meet market needs through all steps of the supply chain from manufacturers, to dealers to end users. GECA foresees the ability to help financing energy-saving technologies in areas such as lighting and HVAC across multiple marketsincluding office, retail and manufacturing.

HEI Hotels & Resorts located in Norwalk, CT is a hospitality owner and operator of over 40 well-known upscale and luxury hotels including well-known brands Marriott, Renaissance, Westin, Le Meridien, Sheraton, "W", Hilton, Embassy Suites and Crowne Plaza totaling nearly 10 million square feet throughout the United States and representing approximately $2.5 billion total investment. HEI is a leader in energy efficiency having reduced their portfolio wide consumption between 5% & 7% annually the past few years and currently, HEI is working towards company-wide 2011 targets for energy savings and waste reduction of 3.5% and 10% respectively. As part of their participation in the Better Buildings Challenge, HEI has committed to reducing the energy use in their ever growing 10 million square feet of building space 20% by 2020.

Legrand, with the Wiremold/Legrand facility in West Hartford, CT is a leading provider of products and systems for electrical installations and information networks for the built environment with 170,000 products divided into 95 categories worldwide. Legrand has demonstrated its commitment to sustainability through its corporate-wide adoption of ISO 14001 and by becoming an industry leader in energy-efficient plant and building operations. As a partner with the Better Buildings Challenge, Legrand has committed to reducing energy intensity by 25% across 14 sites encompassing 1.4 million square feet of manufacturing, warehouse and office space by 2021. Legrand will showcase energy management improvements achieved through the Challenge at the West Hartford, CT site.

Has your company made a commitment similar to these? Let me know about your comany's story at adam.ney@cbia.com.