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EPA's Energy Star Program Looks to Next Phase in Sustainability

01/22/2014 | By Sarah Borchersen-Keto

Cindy Jacobs, senior advisor at the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star Program, joined REIT.com for a video interview at NAREIT’s 2014 Leader in the Light Working Forum in San Francisco.

Energy Star was established in 1992 and is a voluntary program that helps businesses and individuals achieve superior energy efficiency. Jacobs was asked for her views regarding the next phase of the program.

“There’s more than energy to sustainability,” Jacobs responded. She pointed out that other areas of sustainability include water and waste efficiency.

“We really feel that the EPA has a major role there and has a lot to offer,” she said. “We’re looking to bring more of the kinds of things we’ve been able to bring with Energy Star to the market to help with the tracking, the measurement and generally sustainability writ large in terms of environment.”

Jacobs also addressed common myths or misperceptions surrounding energy efficiency. She noted that one such misperception is the so-called split incentive barrier, which occurs mainly in buildings where the tenants are paying directly for their energy use. The misperception, she said, is that all the benefits and savings flow to the tenant, and not the landlord.

“Many studies have shown that… improving efficiency in a building increases the asset value of a building, so over the long term, the landlord really does get the benefit, even if they may not get those direct, day-to-day energy savings in the short term,” Jacobs said.

Furthermore, she noted, everything is negotiable: “I’ve heard many stories where landlords and tenants have been able to negotiate agreements to share cost and benefits. If the payback’s there—and  for efficiency, it often is in a reasonable amount of time—then the two parties can often work out an agreement.”

Turning to the topic of government subsidies or tax credits and their ability to spur sustainability momentum, Jacobs noted that “more funds for efficiency is always a good thing.”

“I think that rebates, subsidies (and) tax credits can be very helpful, especially where there’s a new technology or a new practice,” she said.