- The Biden administration said Monday it will invest $30 million into workforce initiatives designed to train people to construct and maintain high-performance buildings that utilize renewables, efficient lighting and energy demand management, among other clean energy technologies.
- The U.S. Department of Energy also released a grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEB) "roadmap," which includes more than a dozen recommendations to integrate buildings with solar and wind power through demand management and storage. The agency estimates such buildings could create savings up to $200 billion through 2040.
- The White House also announced new building performance standards for the federal government, spearheaded by the Council on Environmental Quality. The federal government is the single largest energy consumer in the U.S., and its more than 360,000 buildings represent almost 60% of its energy use, according to the Better Buildings Progress Report released alongside the new announcements.
Much of the Biden administration's focus on decarbonization has so far revolved around electrifying the transportation sector, but this week officials said buildings would ultimately be key to addressing the impacts of climate change. Efficiency advocates welcomed that acknowledgement.
It will be "impossible" to halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 "without rapid decarbonization of the building sector," Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) President Paula Glover said in a statement. The White House's announcements on building efficiency and decarbonization are "exactly the kind of action needed," she added.
According to ASE, buildings account for about 40% of U.S. energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
DOE launched its Better Buildings Initiative a decade ago to address building energy use. The agency released an estimate on Monday finding that, in the last year, the initiative helped save $13.5 billion in energy costs and more than 130 million metric tons of carbon emissions through reduced energy and water consumption.
The new funds announced for workforce development "will be critical to ensuring that opportunities are available first to candidates not traditionally well-represented in the sector,” Glover said, including women and people of color. The U.S. energy efficiency sector currently employs more than 2 million people.
DOE also announced new partnerships that the agency said will "kickstart demand for high-performance buildings."
“America’s path to a net-zero carbon economy runs straight through our buildings," Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. The agency's new investments and initiatives will "help unlock new innovation for cleaner buildings," she added, while also developing the nation's workforce.
DOE said it plans to work with the private sector, labor unions, building and home owners, and manufacturers to "electrify and modernize" both new and existing buildings.
"The Administration will support city, state, and tribal governments through expanded partnerships to develop new tools and resources to make buildings more energy efficient, affordable, and healthy," DOE said. Those partnerships include:
- A low-carbon buildings pilot launched by DOE in coordination with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The agency said an initial 55 commercial, industrial and multifamily organizations will address "real world pathways to low and no emission buildings";
- A new initiative to increase market adoption of grid-connected heat pump water heaters in residential and commercial buildings; and
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning new residential and commercial sector partnerships to accelerate efficiency and electrification retrofits in underserved residential households through the ENERGY STAR Home Upgrade program.
DOE's GEB roadmap says the agency must play a "central role" in advancing modern buildings as a grid resource and driver of the clean economy. Along with generating savings of $100-$200 billion across the electric power system, the report finds grid-interactive buildings could decrease power sector emissions by 6% annually by 2030.
DOE’s GEB goals incliude tripling the energy efficiency and demand flexibility of the buildings sector by 2030, relative to 2020 levels.
"By combining energy efficiency and demand flexibility, grid-interactive efficient buildings can remake buildings into a clean and flexible resource," according to the roadmap, produced by DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and The Brattle Group.
DOE also announced the newest version of the "L-Prize," a $12 million competition to encourage development of more efficient lighting. The agency said the first L-Prize was awarded a decade ago to an LED replacement for the 60-watt bulb.
The new prize will aim to support manufacturing and installing these fixtures in the United States, said DOE, "creating jobs and reducing energy use, carbon emissions, and costs for American businesses and consumers."