Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, at the 23rd Annual Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington, D.C. | Photo courtesy of the Energy Efficiency Forum.

Last week, I joined Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, at the 23rd Annual Energy Efficiency Forum to welcome six new companies into the Better Buildings Challenge. Starbucks Coffee Company, Staples, and the J.R. Simplot Company are among the companies joining this national leadership initiative and together represent more than 50 million square feet of commercial and industrial buildings that will undergo energy efficient upgrades.

Additionally, as new “Financial Allies,” Sambas Capital and Greenwood Energy are making $200 million in financing available for energy efficiency improvements and our "Utility Ally," Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), is providing energy efficiency programs that will reach 30 million square feet of its commercial customers.

With these new members, there are now almost 70 organizations partnering with the Energy Department in the Better Buildings Challenge -- representing a total of 1.7 billion square feet of building space. These corporations, universities, municipalities, and other national leaders are making significant commitments to energy efficiency, and in the process, they are saving billions in energy costs, creating jobs, and reducing waste.

Because the U.S. spends about $200 billion each year just to power commercial buildings -- and another $130 billion to power manufacturing facilities -- President Obama launched the Better Buildings Challenge to help America’s commercial and industrial buildings become at least 20 percent more efficient over the next decade. To achieve this aggressive target, the Energy Department is working with leading public and private sector partners to implement energy savings practices that reduce energy waste, save money, and create jobs in the clean energy industry.

The work of these leading organizations will provide best practices and successful models that can be replicated across the country to help drive dramatic advancements in energy efficiency.  The Energy Department will continue to highlight their advances and their innovative solutions so that others can follow their lead.  As a nation, we have the potential to save more than $40 billion a year on energy costs and by using energy more efficiently.  We are excited to add new members to the Better Buildings Challenge and look forward to highlighting the exciting work being done by public and private sector leaders nationwide.