Behind the Buzz
In the United States, commercial
buildings and manufacturing plants consume nearly half of the total energy used
and account for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions. But an increasing
number of buildings are taking measures
to save energy and money and lessen
their environmental impact.
In 2008, more than 3,300 commercial
buildings and manufacturing plants in the
United States earned the ENERGY STAR
label (see sidebar on next page), representing savings of more than $1 billion in
utility bills and more than 7 million metric
tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Last
year’s new ENERGY STAR recipients more
than doubled the total number of ENERGY
STAR-labeled buildings in 2007. That
brought the number of qualified buildings
and plants to more than 6,200 with overall annual utility savings exceeding $1.7
billion and prevented greenhouse gas
emissions from an equivalent of more
than 2 million cars a year.
Many ENERGY STAR buildings also
happen to be district energy customers
(table 1). In a number of U.S. cities, district
energy systems serve a majority of the
ENERGY STAR-qualified buildings in their
service areas, for example:
St. Paul – All 8 ENERGY STAR buildings in
District Energy St. Paul’s service area are
district energy customers.
Hartford – Hartford Steam Co. counts 6
of 7 ENERGY STAR buildings in its market
Minneapolis – NRG Energy Center
Minneapolis supplies 9 of 12 ENERGY
STAR buildings in its service area.
New York – In Con Edison Steam
Operations’ service area, 44 of 54 ENERGY
STAR recipients are district energy customers.
Seattle – 13 out of 20 ENERGY STAR
buildings in the central business district
are connected to Seattle Steam Co.
Philadelphia – Trigen, A Veolia Company,
serves 8 out of 14 ENERGY STAR facilities
in its service area.
Based on an EPA ranking, 8 of the
top 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the
Table 1. District Energy Systems Serving ENERGY STAR-Qualified Buildings: A Representative List.
New York, N. Y.
San Francisco, Calif.
St. Paul, Minn.
District Energy System
Con Edison Steam Operations
No. of ENERGY STAR-
Xcel Energy Inc.
NRG Energy Center San Francisco
Seattle Steam Co.
NRG Energy Center Minneapolis
District Energy St. Paul
Trigen, A Veolia Company
Hartford Steam Co.
Detroit Thermal LLC
Thermal Chicago Corp.
NRG Energy Center Harrisburg
on District Energy
System as of 2008*
most ENERGY STAR-qualified buildings
have district energy systems.
Just as 2008 was a banner year for the
overall ENERGY STAR program, it also was a
big qualifying year for district energy customers. In Seattle, for example, 6 out of the
13 ENERGY STAR buildings served by
Seattle Steam Co. earned the label last
year for the first time; another three, in
2007. The story is similar in other cities. As
more and more buildings, including district
energy customers, pursue the ENERGY
STAR label, it is appropriate to ask, Why
ENERGY STAR? How are these facilities
earning this distinction? Has it been
worth the time and expense?
Why ENERGY STAR?
The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy
created the ENERGY STAR program for
commercial buildings and plants to help
businesses save money and protect the
environment. The program appears to be
delivering. Its effectiveness was recently
validated by a study released by the New
Metro Ranking on
EPA List of Top 25
Cities With the Most
*Number reflects only those buildings connected to district energy systems serving central business districts. Additional ENERGY STAR buildings may be
served by other district energy systems also within city boundaries but outside of the central business district; they are not included here.
**Metro area includes but is not limited to the central business district or district energy system service area.
***Listed in ranking as metro area Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Source: IDEA survey of representative member district energy systems; Top 25 Cities With the Most ENERGY STAR Qualified Buildings in 2008, U.S. EPA (www.energystar.
gov/ia/business/downloads/2008_Top_ 25_cities_chart.pdf); 2007 Population Estimates, U.S. Census Bureau.