Designing and building a brand-spanking new energy-efficient office for an organisation can be costly, as can installing the likes of solar panels and wind turbines to generate electricity.

But you can make big savings through smaller upgrades, such as changing lighting systems or switching to energy-efficient air-conditioning. There are plenty of less expensive ways to reduce energy usage and cut carbon emissions.

Small upgrades. Big difference

Given that buildings account for 40% of Britain’s carbon emissions, upgrading them, in whatever small way, can make a significant difference to helping to slow climate change.

Businesses are catching on to the slightly less obvious side of energy saving too. In the States, individuals can now invest  in projects that are making commercial and industrial buildings more energy efficient. This is an appealing prospect for investors with a green-conscience.

Take Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Capital, for example. The company went public on the New York Stock exchange in April 2013, raising $167m.

Investing in the company as a shareholder means individuals can contribute to their projects – like improving the efficiency of the air-conditioning in 120 buildings owned by the US Army in Fort Bliss, Texas. So far, Hannon Armstrong has invested $3bn in energy efficiency since 2000 and with the new investment from shareholders, they expect this to increase over the next few years.

Will the UK follow?

There are some similar organisations in London but these are yet to be opened up to individual investors.

London Climate Change Capital is an environmental investment manager and advisor who purchased four office buildings which they are now making energy-efficient changes to. They expect to make a profit on the resale.

Another example is Sustainable Development Capital LLP. The company has an energy efficiency fund partly financed by the UK Green Investment Bank. They are putting money into in a number of small-scale projects such as cutting the energy use in an insulation factory in Holywell, north Wales.

These companies don’t allow individual investors just yet, but experts believe it won’t be long before we’re following the US’s lead on this side of the pond.

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