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The US Department of Energy continues to encourage commercial property owners and developers to capitalize on new technologies to reduce energy consumption, one sector at a time. Earlier this month, the DOE launched its second Commercial Building Energy Alliance–a public-private partnership designed to minimize the energy consumption and environmental impact of commercial buildings.

The Commercial Real Estate Energy Alliance will focus on energy use in leased space, offices, shopping malls and the hospitality industry. Like the Retailer Energy Alliance it formed in Feb. 2008, the DOE expects members of the new alliance to share best practices and practical experiences in energy efficiency.

Representatives from the DOE, the Building Owners and Managers Assoc. and 18 commercial real estate companies attended the kick-off event at 7 World Trade Center, the first LEED Gold-certified office tower in Manhattan. Henry Chamberlain, president and COO of BOMA International, called the alliance “a catalyst for long-term change” that can reduce the use of energy, cut greenhouse gases and drive innovation in the marketplace.

The DOE has already created a steering committee for the next Commercial Building Energy Alliance, which will examine energy use in hospitals. Known as the Hospital Building Alliance, it will be the centerpiece of a comprehensive initiative to increase the use of energy efficient technologies in hospitals across the United States.

The DOE describes the nation’s 8,000 hospitals as among its most energy intensive commercial buildings, with more than 2.5 times the energy intensity and carbon dioxide emissions of office buildings. Unlike most other commercial buildings, hospitals are operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provide services even during power outages, natural disasters, and other events that generally force other commercial facilities to close, the agency notes.

The DOE wants to reduce the amount of energy used by commercial buildings from about 19% of total US energy consumption to 0% by 2025. The goal is cost-effective net-zero energy commercial buildings-grid-connected buildings that, over the course of a year, generate as much energy as they consume.

The DOE kicked off its Zero-Net Energy Commercial Building Initiative last year by establishing the National Laboratory Collaborative on Building Technologies and developing the Commercial Building Energy Alliances. The Commercial Building Initiative focuses on “turning tomorrow’s buildings into domestic energy assets by constructing energy-efficient, high-performance buildings that expeditiously and cost-effectively achieve sustainable carbon reductions and enable, through energy-efficient buildings, higher ROIs for building owners and occupants as well as to economy as a whole,” says Drury B. Crawley.

Crawley, team leader in commercial buildings research and development for the DOE’s Building Technology Programs, says DOE formed the Commercial Building Energy Alliances “to accelerate the improvements in building technologies and the commercialization of these products.”

Each Commercial Building Energy Alliance brings together industry experts who can influence the energy footprints of the companies or institutions they represent, Crawley says. Although members meet face-to-face only twice a year, they are encouraged to network by phone and online to discuss energy challenges, share non-proprietary information, conduct energy saving assessments and cut the cost of high-efficiency building equipment through group purchases. They can also benefit from the technical assistance of the DOE, he added.

For more information: The DOE lists the tax deductions that are available for improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings, as well as links to qualified software available for calculating the savings.

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