Quote Originally Posted by mmreilly View Post
I can certainly appreciate how investing in improved energy efficiency would produce the benefits that you describe over a long time horizon. However, even if such a plan had been announced in early 2009, would two years have been enough time for such a program to have had a meaningful impact? I would have guessed that the returns on such a program would have taken several years to realize, by which time it would have been too late, although maybe the US energy infrastructure could have been overhauled more quickly than I would have imagined.
The benefits should be designed to outweigh the costs of financing work up-front.

This way a project is financed through projected monthly energy expenditure (operational) savings with no (or little) cash outlay by the entity ordering the work to be performed.

This can be done in the residential and small commercial sectors through utility-based on-bill financing and ESPCs in the large commercial, industrial and .gov sectors. They function as the financing mechanisms, with kWh savings guaranteed (assuming one has a proper contract) by the ESCO.

In this way, energy infrastructure can be upgraded faster than one would imagine without requiring much up-front cash. There is still loss to finance charges, and downside risk if oil/electricity/etc. drop significantly in price, but mechanisms to spur rapid investment that pay for themselves, plus offer a good chance for additional financial benefit, do exist.

Of course, this works best with relatively vanilla activities (insulating, retro-commissioning, replacement of older furnaces/boilers etc.) It also requires more sophistication in contractual agreements than many entities possess to ensure one does not get ripped off (there are a few third-party firms that do this - also for a fee).

When an investment makes sense (has a positive ROI), as energy efficiency typically does, there will always be ways to accelerate adoption. Also see Fred's post above ^.