Tapping the Climate and Profit Opportunity in Deep Energy Efficiency Upgrades

Retrofitting our buildings to improve their Energy Efficiency is an opportunity to save businesses and households money now while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  And improve occupant comfort and health.  And grow industry revenues while generating living wage jobs.  Why aren’t we doing more of it?  How can we scale up the investment we’re making in deep energy efficiency retrofits?  This session will explain how we can leverage  recent  innovations in technology, policy, and financing that are ready to scale, and describe the business development potential of the energy efficiency resource.

Session Notes by Steve Guttman

Victor began by reiterating a point made by Ed Mazria at the morning plenary: the current rate of retrofit (1% of existing building stock per year) is entirely inadequate to meet the necessary reductions in GHG emissions, and that accelerating modernizations is essential to the goals.  Victor drew attention to five (5) key strategies:

  • Mass customization
  • Going deep over time
  • Incentives based on point of sale and green leases
  • Time based consumption approaches
  • Greening the grid at a district level

David Pogue of CBRE went on the share longitudinal research that their organization has been doing to look at the greening of the existing building market by tracking LEED-EBOM and Energy Star certifications. This research has shown that there has been significant market growth in both certified gross square footage and the number of certified buildings over the past 10 years.   This research has also led CBRE to believe that the bigger buildings (over 500k GSF) are getting the most retrofit attention, which helps address the fact that 2.5% to 3.0% of large urban buildings account for almost 50% of urban GHG emissions.

Brenden Millstein of Carbon lighthouse explained their strategy, likening the revolution they are trying to create to the revolution Standard Oil created in the late 1800’s through the harvesting, refinement and distribution of fossil fuels. Carbon lighthouse’s focus is on small savings (10% to 30%) but at scale, which has fueled the doubling of Carbon Lighthouse’s business every year since they started in 2009. Carbon Lighthouse’s radical concept leverages increased asset value for real estate owners by converting capital expenditures to revenue, which makes the financial transaction extremely simple and low risk for owners.

Finally, Clay Nessler of Johnson Controls shared a number of examples of the new project types that are the result of owners being driven by GHG emission reductions and resiliency goals.  He discussed Stanford University’s new heat recovery chiller central plant (which replaced their cogeneration, chiller, and boiler plant), and the State of Hawaii’s “Sustainable Hawai’i Initiative”, which includes achieving 100% of electricity generated by renewable energy systems by 2045.

Session Lead: Victor Olgyay, Rocky Mountain Institute

Victor Olgyay, AIA is a bioclimatic architect living in Boulder, Colorado. In 1978 he designed his first passive solar house, and has since worked as an architect, writer, professor, researcher, daylighting designer, and environmental consultant. Since 2005, he has been a principal with Rocky Mountain Institute leading the Institute’s Buildings Practice to encourage widespread adoption of net zero district developments and comprehensive building energy retrofits. From 1993 to 2000 Victor was an Associate Professor and Director of Research at the University of Hawaii School of Architecture. He has served on the Board of Directors for the American Solar Energy Society, and is currently on the University of Colorado Design Review Board, and the GSA Green Building Advisory Committee.


Brenden Millstein is CEO & Co-founder of Carbon Lighthouse, where he is responsible for corporate growth, engineering, and long-term planning. Under Brenden’s leadership, Carbon Lighthouse became profitable and began reducing emissions within 6 months of operations. Brenden previously worked for NYSERDA, the State agency charged with addressing New York’s largest energy and environmental issues. Working with a small team comprised of leading energy experts, Brenden co-administered a budget of $87 million, executing energy efficiency and demand response projects at 250+ manufacturing plants and high-rise office buildings in New York City. Brenden’s clients included Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, CBRE, and many other banks and property management companies. Additionally, he also worked as a research fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, investigating both Li-ion batteries and advanced building materials. Brenden obtained an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and an MS in Renewable Energy Engineering, also from Stanford. He holds a B.A. in Physics, cum laude, from Harvard University.

Clay Nesler is the Vice President, Global Sustainability and Industry Initiatives for the Building Technologies and Solutions business of Johnson Controls. He also chairs the company’s global sustainability council. Since joining Johnson Controls in 1983, Clay has held a variety of leadership positions in research, product development, marketing, strategy and corporate sustainability in both the United States and Europe. Nesler serves on the board of American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, the executive group of the US DOE/EPA SEE Action network and is chair of the Alliance to Save Energy International Steering Committee. He helped establish the UN Sustainable Energy for All Building Efficiency Accelerator and serves as chair of the Industrial Advisory Board of the US-China Clean Energy Research Center and is a member of the International Energy Agency Energy Efficiency Industry Advisory Board.

Dave Pogue is leading the development of socially responsible, market driven solutions to align corporate responsibility principals into CBRE business practices through a strategy called Shared Advantage.  In his prior role as Global Director of Corporate Responsibility, Dave oversaw CBRE’s development, implementation and reporting for all aspects of corporate social responsibility, including environmental stewardship, community engagement and corporate giving. His leadership has produced an award-winning sustainability platform leveraging thought leadership, service delivery and industry associations to raise worldwide green building standards. Program achievements include development of CBRE’s $1 million Real Green Research Challenge; delivery of co-branded BOMA BEEP training to more than 24,000 attendees; and recognition as the first manager of commercial property to certify more than 1000 buildings in the LEED® for Existing Buildings rating system. CBRE has been honored by the EPA as an eleven-time ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year and recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council® with the Leadership Award for Organizational Excellence.


Sponsored by Carbon Lighthouse