Energy efficiency continues to grow in importance over the past year despite the still-struggling global economy, according to the latest global survey on the subject by Johnson Controls and the International Facility Management Association.

The international drivers for energy efficiency are based in cost savings, suggesting that the sluggish economy could be a driver for companies to grab low-hanging fruit to help their bottom line. While energy management is important in every country, some emerging economies outstripped Europe and the U.S. when it came to how high they ranked.

Here are some of the highlights from this year's report, which reflects the attitudes and priorities of more than 2,800 decision-makers in the commercial building sector around the world:

  • India lead the pack with 39 percent of respondents ranking energy management "extremely important," compared to 27 percent for China, 16 percent in the U.S. and 14 percent for Pan-Europe.
  • Energy cost savings topped the list as a driver for investing in energy efficiency, with 97 percent saying it was at least somewhat significant. Greenhouse gas reduction and enhanced public image followed with 74 percent finding it was somewhat important.
  • Attracting and retaining customers ranked second as an "extremely significant" driver for influencing energy efficiency decisions.
  • Existing legislation understandably ranked very differently by country in terms of influence. It was most important for Europeans, coming in as the third most important reason for energy efficiency, as Europe leads in energy and climate legislation.
  • Comparatively, legislation ranked seventh in the U.S and Canada, eighth in China and fifth in India.
  • About two-thirds of global respondents expect energy prices to creep up in 2010.
  • Of those who thought energy prices were increasing, most thought they would increase by about 9 percent.
  • Most decision-makers thought energy or carbon legislation is likely within the next two years.
  • Chinese and Indian business leaders are the most likely to expect legislation, with 97 and 95 percent respectively saying it was at least somewhat likely, compared with 75 percent of those in the U.S.
  • About 40 percent of respondents globally think climate change legislation will be at least a slightly greater risk than opportunity.
  • China, followed by Europe, championed a dose of optimism, with 22 and 19 percent respectively saying that legislation was at least more of an opportunity than a risk.
  • No surprise, building efficiency is the top priority for those looking to shrink their carbon footprint, with 34 percent saying energy efficiency was their top strategy.
  • The second most popular method to reduce emissions was onsite renewable energy, yet 18 percent of respondents said there was no prioritization amongst different energy efficient strategies.
  • China and India are leading in putting money where their mouths are, with nearly all of the respondents from the two countries saying they have planned operating expenditures for energy efficiency investments, compared to 73 percent in the U.S.
  • Companies are largely considering renewable technologies, with solar electric topping the choices at 50 percent of respondents considering incorporating it into existing or new construction. Solar thermal was just behind at 42 percent, followed by wind at 26 percent.
  • And what to expect moving forward? As energy costs are expected to climb, corporate leaders think that PV and lighting technologies will see the most improvement in performance-to-price, with smart building technologies and electric vehicles coming in third and fourth.