According to a report released recently by management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., a $50 billion annual investment in buildings' energy efficiency, along with other non-transportation initiatives, over the next 10 years could reduce energy consumption in the United States by 23 percent. The report, "Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy," indicates that such an investment would also save the economy $1.2 trillion, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.1 gigatons each year, and generate 900,000 jobs.

McKinsey's research team assessed the potential of existing methods and technologies to increase energy efficiency in buildings and other non-transportation sectors, analyzed the barriers that impede energy efficiency goals, and outlined practical solutions for achieving them. The team concluded that energy efficiency could provide a significant, low-cost source of energy for the United States that could reduce the need for investments in new energy production infrastructure. However, the research team adds, a comprehensive and innovative plan is needed for accessing efficiency potential and for addressing the structural, behavioral, and availability barriers that exist.

According to the research team, any such strategy would need to:

1. recognize energy efficiency as an important energy resource that can help the U.S. meet future energy needs while new no- and low-carbon energy sources are developed;
2. formulate and launch an integrated portfolio of proven, piloted, and emerging approaches to achieving greater energy efficiency, at both national and regional levels;
3. identify ways to provide the significant upfront funding required to achieve energy efficiency goals;
4. more closely align utilities, regulators, government agencies, manufacturers, and energy consumers; and
5. foster development and deployment of innovative next-generation energy efficiency technologies to ensure continued gains in productivity.

"Increasing our nation's energy efficiency is an economic, environmental, and national security imperative that requires bold public policy," says Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO, and founding chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council, one of the study's sponsors. "As Congress debates climate change legislation, these findings make an overwhelming case that we must dramatically strengthen provisions that support and scale green building."

Other sponsors include the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, Austin Energy, DTE Energy Co., The Energy Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Exelon Corp., the Natural Resources Defense Council, PG&E Corp., Sempra Energy, the Sea Change Foundation, and Southern Co..

To download the executive summary of "Unlocking Energy Efficiency in the U.S. Economy" or the full report, click here.