According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) “Annual Energy Outlook 2021,” U.S. commercial floor space will grow over the next 30 years, while energy use for that floorspace will increase at a much slower pace.
The report noted that retail and service buildings, offices and schools collectively account for half of commercial floor space in the United States, and in 2020 these three building types consumed two-thirds of all energy used to heat commercial buildings.
The report also projected an 8% decline in commercial buildings’ energy intensity by 2050 (defined as a measure of energy consumed per square foot of floor space). In sum, the report projects that, while total commercial floor space will grow by 33% between 2020 and 2050, total commercial energy usage for that area will only grow by 22% during that same time frame.
The reasons? “We assume wider adoption of commercial building sensors and controls over time and other factors, including energy efficiency gains and warmer weather, will all contribute to declines in commercial energy consumption to meet heating, ventilation, and lighting needs,” according to the report.
For example, the report believes that the increasing adoption of lighting controls, such as dimmers and automatic switches, will reduce energy consumption to light commercial spaces. Furthermore, efficiency improvements will also contribute to declines in energy consumption for lighting. In addition, as energy-efficient LEDs replace existing lighting technologies across the United States, the report projects that commercial buildings will use 36% less energy for lighting over the next 30 years.
However, the report also projects that U.S. energy consumption for air conditioning will increase 29% over the next 30 years, noting that offices consume more energy to cool buildings than any other commercial building type throughout the projection period.
“Our assumptions about warmer weather and population migration to warmer areas of the country contribute to increases in energy consumption for air conditioning,” according to the report. “These increases offset energy efficiency gains as older cooling equipment is replaced by more energy efficient models.”
On the other hand, increased adoption of HVAC sensors and controls are expected to contribute to a 13% decline in energy consumption to heat offices across the nation, which is the largest decline in energy consumption for any single use among all commercial building types.
“In addition, we project that, by 2050, the second-largest decline in heating energy consumption will be in retail and service spaces—a nine percent decline,” stated the report.