Energy efficiency has never been more important, according to new research commissioned by Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) . The Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) survey, a research report targeting professionals responsible for energy management, revealed barriers to investing in energy efficiency include: limited funding, uncertainty about future energy prices, government incentives, and energy and climate legislation.

“These findings highlight the fact that business leaders across the U.S. are increasingly aware of the need for energy efficiency and its potential to reduce operating costs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” said C. David Myers, president of Johnson Controls Building Efficiency division. “Economic and regulatory uncertainty, however, are inhibiting organizations from investing in proactive measures,” added Myers.

More than 1,400 North American executives who are responsible for managing, reviewing or monitoring energy use within their organizations.  The majority of respondents were chief executive officers, vice presidents, general managers or facility directors.

According to the EEI results, 71 percent of business leaders are paying more attention to energy efficiency than they were one year ago. Fifty-eight percent responded that energy management was extremely or very important. Of the organizations making public carbon commitments, 45 percent identified energy efficiency in buildings as their top carbon reduction strategy. Sustainability continues as a focus for new construction projects as 38 percent are seeking green building certification, while 45 percent plan to incorporate green elements, but not certify their facilities.

The study revealed a likely 10 percent decrease from last year in the use of facility capital budgets to fund energy efficiency projects. It also revealed a 6 percent decrease in the number of respondents planning to make investments using their operational budgets.

When asked about the barriers to capture potential energy savings, limited capital availability for investments (42 percent) and unattractive payback (21 percent) were cited. Nearly 50 percent of executives who oversee energy efficiency investments expect a payback period that is less than three years.

The EEI research indicates that business leaders believe incentives from utilities or government will drive investment. Eighty-five percent stated that legislation mandating energy efficiency and/or carbon reduction is likely within the next two years. This data supports a continual upward trend, increasing from 76 percent in 2008.  Forty-four percent report that incentives are very/extremely important as they make decisions on energy efficiency, up from 38 percent in 2008.   There doesn’t seem to be a consensus among respondents about whether energy prices will decrease or increase.

“We see a wide distribution of views about what will happen to energy prices – ranging from a 100 percent increase to a 60 percent decrease,” according to Clay Nesler, vice president of Global Energy & Sustainability at Johnson Controls. “This uncertainty appears to be another reason business leaders are holding back on investments,” said Nesler.

Survey participants also were asked about on-site renewable energy technologies. Leaders stated they were considering a range of technologies, including wind, solar thermal, solar electric and geothermal sources of energy. Forty-six percent reported considering solar electric – an increase of 8 percent over the previous year. Geothermal energy also received a substantial increase in interest level, up by seven percent.

© 2009, Tracey de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Tracey de Morsella (323 Articles)

Tracey de Morsella started her career working as an editor for US Technology Magazine. She used that experience to launch Delaware Valley Network, a publication for professionals in the Greater Philadelphia area. Years later, she used the contacts and resources she acquired to work in executive search specializing in technical and diversity recruitment. She has conducted recruitment training seminars for Wachovia Bank, the Department of Interior and the US Postal Service. During this time, she also created a diversity portal called The Multicultural Advantage and published the Diversity Recruitment Advertising Toolkit, a directory of recruiting resources for human resources professionals. Her career and recruitment articles have appeared in numerous publications and web portals including Woman Engineer Magazine, Monster.com, About.com Job Search Channel, Workplace Diversity Magazine, Society for Human Resource Management web site, NSBE Engineering Magazine, HR.com, and Human Resource Consultants Association Newsletter. Her work with technology professionals drew her to pursuing training and work in web development, which led to a stint at Merrill Lynch as an Intranet Manager. In March, she decided to combine her technical and career management expertise with her passion for the environment, and with her husband, launched The Green Economy Post, a blog providing green career information and covering the impact of the environment, sustainable building, cleantech and renewable energy on the US economy. Her sustainability articles have appeared on Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Chem.Info,FastCompany and CleanTechies.