Research highlight

Information labels reduce energy consumption for buildings

Nature Energy

March 28, 2017

Information programmes designed to promote energy efficiency in the US have led to energy savings of up to 30% for commercial buildings in Los Angeles, reports a paper published online in Nature Energy this week. However, the study shows that despite these gains, the programmes' rules limit their impact for small and medium sized buildings, which form two-thirds of the sector’s emissions.

Energy supplied to buildings represents about a third of total US energy consumption. Information programmes - like certification labels - have been introduced in many nations to encourage investment in energy efficiency measures. These aim to reduce energy consumption and therefore carbon emissions. Three such approaches in the US are the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star programme, and the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programme.

Omar Asensio and Magali Delmas examine the effectiveness of these three programmes by analysing monthly electricity consumption data for 178,777 commercial buildings in Los Angeles between 2005 and 2012. They find that, depending on the programme, the energy savings incurred range from 18% to 30% - a reduction of 210 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) or 145 kilotons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions per year - and that the savings are especially likely to persist in larger, more energy-intensive buildings. However, the eligibility rules and participant self-selection mean that the programmes are less effective for small and medium sized buildings.

The authors conclude that, although the information programmes can remove investment barriers to energy efficiency in the commercial buildings sector, challenges remain in increasing uptake and impact.

doi: 10.1038/nenergy.2017.33

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