April 30, 2015
Originally published in Roll Call
As the East Coast recovers from a brutally cold winter and turns the corner toward summer, families naturally think of the costs they had to bear to heat their homes and will again face as the mercury rises. And, while most people don’t think about this, the same cost consideration is true for many nonprofit organizations throughout the country. These organizations serve our communities on lean budgets – always striving to keep administrative costs to a bare minimum. But one persistent drain that always seems to divert resources away from their missions is the cost of energy. There is bipartisan legislation in the Senate and introduced in the House to aid nonprofits in making their buildings more energy efficient and thus reduce their operating costs.
Nonprofit organizations play a large role in our communities, providing social welfare, educational, recreational, and communal services, among other things. Think of our nation’s nonprofit hospitals, museums, YMCAs and houses of worship. Despite the diversity of services provided and populations served, the one common denominator they all (or most) share is the use of a physical building. And besides keeping the lights on, these buildings must be warmed in the winter and cooled in the summer. Unfortunately, many of our nonprofit buildings are old, drafty, and poorly insulated, or just use energy-guzzling heating and cooling systems, leading to unnecessarily high operational costs.
According to the EPA, nonresidential buildings in the United States consume more than $200 billion annually in energy costs. Among those many buildings are this country’s 2,700 YMCAs, 2,900 nonprofit hospitals, 17,000 museums and more than 370,000 houses of worship. Looking just at the houses of worship–the EPA, based on its “Green Congregations” project, estimates that these entities could cut their energy use – and costs – by one third through energy efficiency improvements. If America’s houses of worship cut their energy use by just 10 percent, the EPA estimates that would save 1.8 billion kWh of electricity and 1.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the emissions of 240,000 cars.