It's the latest in a series of initiatives the federalgovernment is sponsoring to help commercial and industrialproperties offset their energy use from the electricity grid.According to government statistics, commercial buildings used 18%of the energy nationwide and generated 15% of greenhouse gasemissions in 2005. In a typical office building, the DOE reports,energy use accounts for 30% of operating costs, the largest singlecategory of controllable costs.

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Earlier this year, the DOE completed the 500th Energy SavingAssessment at the nation's largest industrial facilities. Theassessments reportedly have helped companies identify opportunitiesto save more than 80 trillion British Thermal Units (BTUs) ofnatural gas--roughly equivalent to the natural gas used in aboutone million American homes. If all of the recommendations from theassessments are implemented, the DOE estimates the properties wouldreduce carbon dioxide emissions by seven million metric tons andsave their owners more than $800 million in energy costsannually.

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The DOE is also spearheading the creation of CommercialBuilding Energy Alliances (CBEAs), which are designed tominimize the energy and environmental impact of commercialbuildings and help property owners reduce energy costs. DruCrawley, team leader, Commercial Buildings R&D for the DOE'sBuilding Technology Programs, says the goal is to showcase bestpractice technology demonstrations, set standards and encouragesupport for mass production of promising processes andproducts.

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The DOE launched the Retailer EnergyAlliance (REA) in February. It plans to start theCommercial Real Estate Energy Alliance, which will focus onbuilding owners, managers and developers, in Feb. 2009, followed bythe Institutional Energy Alliance about a year later, Crawleyexplains.

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Retail buildings in the United States account for approximately20% of commercial sector energy consumption and represent thefastest growing subsector, making them an important opportunity forsavings, Crawley explains. The REA is designed with both economicsand the environment in mind.

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The group has already attracted support from about two dozencompanies with more than two-billion sf of building space,including the nation's largest retailers: A&P, Applebee's,Arby's, Bealls, Belk, Best Buy, Boston Market, Food Lion, Hardees,The Home Depot, IKEA, JC Penney, John Deere, Kohl's, Lowes, Macy's(Federated), McDonalds, REI, Staples, Supervalu, Target, Wal-Martand Whole Foods.

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At its first supplier summit in Denver in June, retailrepresentatives concurred it was important to save energy. "Theywere excited to be able to talk with each other. These aren'tcompetitive issues. They're energy issues, which affect allretailers, Crawley says.

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Many retailers are already taking action to curb energy use andcosts. At a new store in Austin, Office Depot installed 50skylights from Utah-based Ciralight Inc. Each one has a reflectivemirror that tracks the sun, directing sunlight through a prismaticlens that diffuses it into the store.

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A computer monitors the store lighting, and cuts the output fromthe fluorescent lights when the natural light is sufficient. Thereare also several silicon-glass solar panels on the roof, generateabout 10% of the store's electricity, said Edward Costa, OfficeDepot's vice president of construction.

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Wal-Mar and Best Buy are also using skylights and self-adjustinglighting in some stores, while Kroger, Safeway and other retailersare using energy efficient light-emitting diodes or LEDs ratherthan regular incandescent bulbs in freezer units.

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Dwayne Shmel, manager of architecture for Best Buy, said mostproperty owners and developers have been cooperative aboutinstalling skylights and other energy efficient technologiesbecause it adds value now and for any possible future tenant. "Sofar, the developers are on board with us at increasing energyefficiency," he says. Shmel says Best Buy supports new technologiesto cut energy use, but added that the company is not willing to payresearch and development costs for those products.

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