Energy-efficiency findings defy conventional wisdom

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Research of the medium- and large-scale U.S. commercial building market conducted by building energy analytics company FirstFuel has revealed that half of all energy-efficiency savings in commercial buildings are achievable through operational improvements -- at little or no cost to building owners and operators.

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These findings fly in the face of conventional wisdom that building retrofits should be the primary focus of commercial energy efficiency.

"Our deep analysis of interval data reveals that a vast savings opportunity still remains largely untouched," said Swapnil Shah, co-founder and CEO of FirstFuel. "These findings show that the commercial building sector has a chance to essentially double the potential for energy savings, while simultaneously slashing efficiency implementation costs by a significant margin."

Utilities and government agencies are increasingly seeing the opportunities for operational improvements in commercial buildings as the path forward to help them meet energy-efficiency targets.

The FirstFuel analysis revealed that 51 percent of all energy efficiency opportunities from the sample (more than 60 million square feet, representing a cross-section of the medium and large U.S. commercial market in terms of building size, building type, and geography) -- more than $12 million in savings -- could be achieved through low and no-cost operational improvements. When extrapolated to the entire U.S. commercial building market, the total savings potential for operational improvements represents a $17 billion opportunity.

FirstFuel's analysis also yielded insights into the most common operational savings opportunities, including HVAC scheduling, equipment sequencing, and simultaneous heating and cooling. These inefficiencies are sometimes difficult to uncover, but can be implemented immediately once identified.

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