Thank you for taking the time to read the very first issue of Building Decarb Central.
You may be wondering where the idea for this newsletter came from, or why we’ve decided to tackle the issue of building decarbonization, so let us shed some light.
Why Building Decarb Central?
It’s simple. Decarbonizing our building space and water heating is needed to reduce greenhouse gases in the United States and around the world. As a country, we have made excellent progress in energy efficiency and renewable energy development over several decades of sustained effort. There are two very large remaining areas where similar progress is essential – transportation and building infrastructure. We must take the carbon out of those two sectors.
Everybody knows about electric cars and buses. Even though progress in the development of the electric vehicle market is still quite limited, we know that Tesla has disrupted the automotive world and that General Motors (and Volvo, Volkswagen, BMW, Nissan, Honda, Hyundai and others) are rapidly ramping up to develop new electric vehicles. Electric vehicles are coming, although there are uncertainties about how fast the market will develop, when EVs will reach price parity, and how well they will be accepted across all consumers.
As far as heating in our homes and commercial buildings is concerned, progress in use of (somewhat) new and (certainly) sophisticated technology has been slower. Frankly, consumers think it’s much cooler to brag about the new car in their driveways instead of getting excited about the lumps of steel in their basements. Despite the importance of building decarb from a carbon emissions perspective, progress to date has been quite limited, especially for existing buildings.
EVs have had a lot of public policy support to encourage their market movement. Leading states are requiring zero emissions vehicles, there are federal and state tax incentives, EVs have access to car pool lanes, and there is a wide variety of other research, policy, program and educational initiatives to support market development. Decarbonizing our buildings will also require policy and program support. Compared to electrifying transportation, however, decarbonizing buildings has not captured the public’s imagination, and the research, policy, program, and educational support are currently much less developed.
Accelerating the Transition
After looking more broadly at electrification (including vehicles and industrial use) in the Northeast US, NEEP has focused on deep efficiency and electrification of buildings as a critical decarbonization strategy. The required technology pathway is largely developed and manufacturing support exists to achieve building efficiency and electrification advancements today. However, policy and regulatory support is very limited and significant consumer barriers remain.
NEEP believes that establishing a clear and regular voice on the topic of building decarb will develop the knowledge base and comfort level of critical audiences. NEEP will build on its existing program and information platforms (cold climate air source heat pumps, smart home controls, strategic electrification research, and technical assistance for buildings and communities). We are in the process of enlisting other partners around the county to expand the reach and expertise represented by Building Decarb Central. Regionally, NEEP will also sponsor a series of building decarb leadership forums and a major conference with Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). Stay tuned for more details.
NEEP and our partners will curate and produce a monthly electronic newsletter focused on the critical issues and concrete progress being made in decarbonizing buildings. The newsletter will be short and simple, focused on summarizing and linking to information on three or four building decarb topic areas per issue. NEEP, with support from a few key leaders, will provide the editorial voice and context, creating a channel that provides high quality, integrated information such as:
- Linking efficiency, fuel switching, and controls;
- Implications for the grid;
- Leading research, policies, and programs from around the country;
- Economic benefits of decarbonization; and
- Low-income benefits and opportunities.
NEEP is launching this effort to recognize leadership and stimulate innovation in building decarbonization, not to advance any particular narrow agenda. This is a developing field, and we fully expect to see major technical and product advances, new businesses models to deliver services, and innovative policies and programs.
We enlist your support either as a non-profit partner, a trade ally, and/or as a content contributor. If you have questions or suggestions, please email Dave Hewitt.
It’s time to move on building decarbonization, and we need your help to do it.
This blog is part of Building Decarb Central, a series of blogs and other resources aimed at providing a constant flow of information on building decarbonization. Be sure to check out our web portal for more stories, resources, and information.