CEE researchers make efficiency easy & enticing at ACEEE Summer Study
Buildings of all sizes can consume large amounts of energy — they account for more than 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Increasing the efficiency levels of the systems in buildings, such as heating, air conditioning, and lighting, enables these structures to use less electricity and helps lower carbon pollution.
This past month, the 2018 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings was held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in beautiful Pacific Grove, California. The conference brought together efficiency experts and cross-sector professionals from around the world — including 11 CEE staff, six of which presented. The purpose of the summer study was to explore how innovation in technology and a practical approach to energy efficiency can reduce the environmental footprint of buildings. This year’s theme, “Making Efficiency Easy and Enticing,” explored strategies for eliminating the challenges that prevent implementation of energy-saving best practices, including the installation of more efficient building systems.
Jenny Edwards, director of the innovation exchange at the Center for Energy and Environment, said of the summer study, “The efficiency community is thinking about where and when energy savings occur, as this has a large impact on supply infrastructure. The conference was a good reminder that while we’re grappling with universal industry trends, the solutions will look different on the ground.”
The conference also examined electrification, or replacing combustion fuels for space and water heating, as a response to climate change. “There were a lot of sessions, including CEE's, that addressed electrification in a thoughtful, holistic way,” says Becky Olson, director of residential programs. “This was also the first year that there was a dedicated equity track that focused on affordable housing, workforce development, and disproportionate climate change impacts on low-income households.”
Several members of our research department submitted formal papers to the summer study. Each paper explored cutting-edge strategies that support improved efficiency in buildings, as well as homes and communities. Topics include:
- Effectiveness of cold-climate air source heat pumps (Ben Schoenbauer and Alex Haynor)
- Cost-effectiveness of condensing boilers (Rebecca Olson and Ben Schoenbauer)
- Auto sealing air leaks in new homes with aerosols (Dave Bohac)
- Using time-of-sale home inspections to encourage energy upgrades (Isaac Smith and Carl Nelson)
- Findings from the commercial energy code compliance pilot program (Russ Landry, Megan Hoye, and Di Sui)
- Minnesota’s plan over the next decade of energy efficiency achievements (Carl Nelson and Mike Bull)
- Beneficial electrification in heating dominant climates (Jenny Edwards, Ben Schoenbauer, Josh Quinnell, and Rabi Vandergon)
Although there are still many obstacles around buildings and energy efficiency, there are also several developments to be excited about. Sensors and controls are now helping to prevent energy waste in many buildings, by ensuring that systems are only powered on when in use. As a result, a growing number of buildings are operating at net-zero energy — meaning the total amount of energy they use annually is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.
CEE’s efficiency research is an essential step to finding solutions for many of the building industry’s most pressing energy concerns. For example, the challenge of increasing implementation of energy efficient building systems across various regions and sectors of the market, as well as removing consumer behavioral and economic obstacles, which inhibit energy-saving actions.
“There was a significant utility presence at the conference, but I was struck by the combination of fewer utilities than I expected, and a growing number of cities that attended to share their work and learn how they can do more,” said Russ Landry, senior mechanical engineer.
CEE’s researchers work hard every day to expand the knowledge base around efficiency work and ensure that Minnesota consumers have the resources needed to cut energy costs and reduce harmful emissions. To learn more about CEE’s efficiency research, check out our most recent Field Notes newsletter.
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