New Berkeley Lab Study Charts Scenarios for Building Decarbonization in 2050

September 20, 2023

What would an efficient and decarbonized buildings sector look like in 2050? A new study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) quantified up to a 91% reduction in carbon emissions from buildings with a combination of energy efficiency, demand flexibility, electrification measures, and a decarbonized grid.

Berkeley Lab researchers, in partnership with The Brattle Group, assessed multiple CO2 emissions reduction scenarios to 2050 for U.S. residential and commercial buildings, which consume about three-quarters of all U.S. electricity and are among the largest sources of CO2 emissions across end-use sectors.

Importantly, they found that demand-side measures could avoid up to $107 billion in power system costs per year by 2050, flagging building envelope improvements and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning measures as particularly valuable.

The research was recently featured in a story on Canary Media. “If we can make progress on making buildings more flexible and efficient now, that’s going to pay off in the long run,” Jared Langevin, a Berkeley Lab research scientist and lead study author, told Canary.

The researchers combined detailed bottom-up modeling of building decarbonization measures, including building technology deployment, the pace and extent of reductions in grid emissions intensity, and the performance levels of available efficient and flexible technologies, with a long-run simulation of the U.S. power system to produce the different scenarios. Their analysis found that near-term efforts should focus on deploying building efficiency, especially by accelerating early retrofits and enacting stringent codes and standards; electrification delivers greater impacts over the longer term with gradual equipment replacement and greater grid decarbonization.

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