October 22, 1997

The buildings sector also produces approximately one-third of total U.S. emissions. There is substantial opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings and the appliances in them. Many of these technologies improve the quality of service delivered (i.e. higher quality lighting), and have also been documented in a number of cases to improve productivity. According to a recently released report from five of the nation’s energy laboratories, programs such as the ones below can reduce emissions in the buildings sector in 2010 by 25 million metric tons even with no increase in energy prices.

Standards: Substantial carbon emissions reductions in 2010 can be achieved through existing authority of the Department of Energy to establish market-oriented efficiency standards for appliances, such as refrigerators and air conditioners. The Department of Energy uses a consensus-based approach in which manufacturers, environmentalists, consumer advocates, and the states work together to develop applicable standards.

Voluntary Programs: Significant carbon reductions in 2010 could also be achieved by expanding voluntary programs such as the joint EPA–DOE Energy Star program. Energy Star labeling has already transformed a number of markets. For example, it has cut the energy used by computers, monitors, and printers by 50 percent at virtually no incremental cost. It is now being extended to dozens of other products.

Adopting Best Electricity Engineering Practices: Electronic equipment consumes electricity in stand-by mode (even when not being used) generating 12 MMTs of carbon emission each year. Preliminary analysis suggests that 80 percent of that could be saved through adopting best engineering practices without reducing service.

Research and Development: Designing buildings with advanced technology can reduce energy consumption by 25 to 50 percent without increasing the building’s initial cost. The extra cost of some of the energy-efficient equipment is offset by the smaller required heating and cooling system.

Combined Heat and Power: As in industry, we can reduce the carbon intensity of the buildings sector by accelerating the use of combined heat and power (CHP). Two CHP technologies—small turbines and proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells can convert natural gas to useful energy with 80 to 90 percent efficiency, significantly cutting carbon emissions from a building.

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