Making Buildings Part of the Climate Solution

The commercial building sector accounts for more than 18% of the U.S. primary energy consumption and is a major source of energy-related CO2 emissions. The Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2011 forecast shows that the commercial building sector will be the fastest-growing sector for energy consumption in the mid- to long-term.

To address the energy and climate change challenges, President Obama announced the Better Building Initiative in January 2011, an initiative that aims to reduce the energy consumption of commercial buildings 20% by 2020.  Within that context, the Georgia Tech Climate & Energy Policy Lab (CEPL) collaborates with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop policies that can significantly improve the energy efficiency in commercial buildings. Based on an extensive literature review, the CEPL team identified three types of barriers that hinder the energy efficiency in commercial buildings -- information, regulatory and financial barriers. Policy options have been identified within the literature to address the barriers, including:

  • A National Carbon Tax
  • Overcoming Information Gaps through Benchmarking 
  • Commercial Building Codes: Wider adoption, better compliance, and more aggressive codes 
  • Flexible Innovative Financing of Efficiency 

A workshop was held in Washington D.C. on November 29th, 2011, to discuss policy options. Experts from academia, industry and professional organizations attended and discussed alternative policy options to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions from commercial buildings.

CEPL uses the Georgia Tech-National Energy Modeling System (NEMS) as the primary analytical tool. The commercial technology and behavioral descriptions within GT-NEMS are under the lab’s close study.