A New Model of Energy-Efficient Buildings Offers Future Benefits

Connected buildings.
Published On
May 24, 2021

According to a report from the Building Technologies Office of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, buildings in the United States account for over 70% of electricity use in the nation. In addition, they account for at least one-third of the nation’s economy-wide carbon dioxide emissions.

“Improving the way electricity is consumed and reducing the overall amount of electricity consumption in buildings would significantly reduce energy costs to consumers and facilitate the transition to a decarbonized economy,” according to “A National Roadmap for Grid-Interactive Efficient Buildings.”

The report added that, as the U.S. power system continues its rapid transition over the coming years, buildings will be central to ensuring that the transition is affordable, reliable and clean.

The report mentions that one solution is a shift toward grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs), which the DOE defines as “energy-efficient buildings with smart technologies characterized by the active use of distributed energy resources (DERs) to optimize energy use for grid services, occupant needs and preferences, and cost reductions in a continuous and integrated way.”

For these reasons, GEBs can play an important role in promoting greater affordability, resilience, environmental performance and reliability across the nation’s electric power system.

The report estimates that, over the next two decades, adoption of GEBs on a national scale could be worth between $100 billion and $200 billion in U.S. electric power system cost savings.

There are, however, technical and market barriers in the adoption of GEBs, and, according to the report, technological advancements are needed to overcome challenges related to interoperability and cybersecurity concerns, as well as to provide deeper and more reliable load impacts.

“Successful deployment of these technologies will require addressing insufficient workforce training and financial opportunities among firms with installation and implementation responsibility,” added the report.

To this end, the report offers 14 specific recommendations that are designed to address the most significant barriers to GEB adoption.

“These recommendations come with particular urgency, given the anticipated growth in adoption of DERs such as electric vehicles, solar PV [photovoltaic], and energy storage,” stated the report.

The GEB vision requires improving today’s dominant building loads’ efficiency and flexibility while preparing to integrate new decarbonized sources of load and generation into building and grid operations.

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