David Spates

New Buildings Are Key to Scaling Decarbonization by 2030

The Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) held its first public hearing on February 25, 2022 about the full suite of proposed changes to the Washington State Energy Code-Commercial 2018 Edition.

I testified in support of the heat pump proposals based on my in-depth research and policy analysis for the Washington 2021 State Energy Strategy and my recent white paper, Operation 2030: Scaling Building Decarbonization in Washington State.

If the SBCC adopts the two heat pump proposals for inclusion in the new 2021 commercial energy code, it will make a significant and timely step toward reducing energy use and emissions in commercial buildings across the state.

My testimony focused on the key role that new commercial buildings must play in decarbonizing Washington’s overall building stock by 2050 to meet the state’s emission reduction targets; why we need the heat pump proposals now rather than later in the 2020s; and the costs of alternatives.

Hitting mid- and long-term economy-wide emissions limits requires new buildings to become zero net carbon as soon as possible this decade. The energy code is the primary way to draw down emissions in new buildings, which is why it is so important for this critical keystone policy to shift buildings from inefficient fossil-fuel fired space and water heating to high-efficiency electric equipment, such as heat pumps.

Meeting Economy-Wide Emissions Limits

To meet economy-wide emissions limits, buildings must reduce emissions by 96% by 2050 across the entire building stock, including new and existing construction. This creates a zero-sum game between new and existing construction emissions, meaning that what is not achieved with new construction must be accomplished with existing buildings.

It is also important to reserve renewable gas for key industries that are more difficult to electrify than buildings. Using the energy code to minimize the need for pipeline gas in buildings will help reserve pipeline gas for industrial uses that are harder to decarbonize. Buildings have commercially available, effective, and efficient electric alternatives.

Decarbonizing New Construction Now

In 2050, approximately 40% of all commercial floor space in Washington will have been constructed since 2020, according to calculations I made using commercial floor area forecasts from the 2021 Northwest Power Plan.To meet 2050 emissions limits, Washington state must decarbonize this significant portion of the future building stock as soon as possible. Without a dramatic course correction in policies like the energy code, new commercial construction will be a significant and ever-increasing source of emissions.

The heat pump proposals before the SBCC are a critical step in reducing emissions and should be adopted in the 2021 code so that when the commercial buildings built to the 2021 code are designed, permitted, built, and start using energy in the mid to late 2020s, they will emit significantly fewer emissions.

Alternatives to Electrification Cost $34 Billion by 2050

The modeling that underpins the 2021 State Energy Strategy clearly shows that electrification and high efficiency electric space and water heating represent the lowest cost and most strategic building decarbonization pathway for Washington.

The analysis for the state strategy found that by 2050 the estimated cumulative costs for keeping combustion equipment in buildings fueled by decarbonized pipeline gas will be $34 billion more than the building electrification pathway, mainly in the form of increased energy costs.

More on Operation 2030: The Clean Energy Transition Institute and the 2050 Institute developed Operation 2030: Scaling Building Decarbonization in Washington State to frame and jumpstart multilevel mobilization to fully scale building decarbonization activities by 2030.

Poppy Storm

Building Sector Consultant
Poppy is consulting with the Clean Energy Transition Institute on strategies to decarbonize the built environment. She is also a member of the Clean Energy Transition Institute's Advisory Council. Poppy is Founder & Director of Innovation at the 2050 Institute.
FULL BIO & OTHER POSTS

New Buildings Are Key to Scaling Decarbonization by 2030

The Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) held its first public hearing on February 25, 2022 about the full suite of proposed changes to the Washington State Energy Code-Commercial 2018 Edition.

I testified in support of the heat pump proposals based on my in-depth research and policy analysis for the Washington 2021 State Energy Strategy and my recent white paper, Operation 2030: Scaling Building Decarbonization in Washington State.

If the SBCC adopts the two heat pump proposals for inclusion in the new 2021 commercial energy code, it will make a significant and timely step toward reducing energy use and emissions in commercial buildings across the state.

My testimony focused on the key role that new commercial buildings must play in decarbonizing Washington’s overall building stock by 2050 to meet the state’s emission reduction targets; why we need the heat pump proposals now rather than later in the 2020s; and the costs of alternatives.

Hitting mid- and long-term economy-wide emissions limits requires new buildings to become zero net carbon as soon as possible this decade. The energy code is the primary way to draw down emissions in new buildings, which is why it is so important for this critical keystone policy to shift buildings from inefficient fossil-fuel fired space and water heating to high-efficiency electric equipment, such as heat pumps.

Meeting Economy-Wide Emissions Limits

To meet economy-wide emissions limits, buildings must reduce emissions by 96% by 2050 across the entire building stock, including new and existing construction. This creates a zero-sum game between new and existing construction emissions, meaning that what is not achieved with new construction must be accomplished with existing buildings.

It is also important to reserve renewable gas for key industries that are more difficult to electrify than buildings. Using the energy code to minimize the need for pipeline gas in buildings will help reserve pipeline gas for industrial uses that are harder to decarbonize. Buildings have commercially available, effective, and efficient electric alternatives.

Decarbonizing New Construction Now

In 2050, approximately 40% of all commercial floor space in Washington will have been constructed since 2020, according to calculations I made using commercial floor area forecasts from the 2021 Northwest Power Plan.To meet 2050 emissions limits, Washington state must decarbonize this significant portion of the future building stock as soon as possible. Without a dramatic course correction in policies like the energy code, new commercial construction will be a significant and ever-increasing source of emissions.

The heat pump proposals before the SBCC are a critical step in reducing emissions and should be adopted in the 2021 code so that when the commercial buildings built to the 2021 code are designed, permitted, built, and start using energy in the mid to late 2020s, they will emit significantly fewer emissions.

Alternatives to Electrification Cost $34 Billion by 2050

The modeling that underpins the 2021 State Energy Strategy clearly shows that electrification and high efficiency electric space and water heating represent the lowest cost and most strategic building decarbonization pathway for Washington.

The analysis for the state strategy found that by 2050 the estimated cumulative costs for keeping combustion equipment in buildings fueled by decarbonized pipeline gas will be $34 billion more than the building electrification pathway, mainly in the form of increased energy costs.

More on Operation 2030: The Clean Energy Transition Institute and the 2050 Institute developed Operation 2030: Scaling Building Decarbonization in Washington State to frame and jumpstart multilevel mobilization to fully scale building decarbonization activities by 2030.

Poppy Storm

Building Sector Consultant
Poppy is consulting with the Clean Energy Transition Institute on strategies to decarbonize the built environment. She is also a member of the Clean Energy Transition Institute's Advisory Council. Poppy is Founder & Director of Innovation at the 2050 Institute.
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