U.S. Can Cut Building Emissions 91% to Meet Net-Zero Goals, Study Finds
According to a new study, the U.S. has the potential to drastically reduce building emissions in order to meet its goals to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. These emissions-cutting scenarios, such as making changes to energy use in buildings, could reduce building emissions by 91% compared to the 2005 peak and even save over $100 billion per year.
Researchers published their findings in the journal One Earth and used computational modeling to determine how different scenarios could impact building emissions. They found that scenarios such as switching to cleaner energy sources, like renewables, improving building efficiency with features like high-performance windows or smart thermostats, and switching to low-carbon equipment like heat pumps could all help contribute to reduced emissions.
“Meeting the U.S. 2050 net-zero emissions target requires a rapid and cost-effective low-carbon transition across the entire energy system,” the study authors wrote. “Commercial and residential buildings are a primary source of emissions and are key to this transition.”
As ScienceDaily reported, the U.S. building sector contributed 2,327 megatons of carbon dioxide in 2005, a record high level. While building emissions have declined about 25% since then, drastic cuts are still necessary to help meet the country’s goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. According to the National Building Performance Standards Coalition, buildings currently make up about 35% of total energy-related emissions.
The researchers noted that energy-efficient buildings, low-energy carbon sources, and a more reliable and flexible power grid were all important to achieving the highest reduction in emissions. They used modeling to show low, moderate and aggressive scenarios, and cutting emissions by 91% will require the aggressive scenario.
But this quick transition could pay off. According to the authors, deploying the aggressive scenario could also lead to annual energy cost savings of around $107 billion by 2050, which could also help balance out the cost to decarbonize the electrical grid.
The authors noted that policies such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law support actions to decarbonize buildings, but at only a fraction of what is necessary to reduce emissions to meet net-zero goals by 2050.
“The U.S. transition to a low-carbon energy system is well underway, with energy-related CO2 emissions having fallen steadily over the past decade. But achieving the deeper levels of emissions reductions targeted by economy-wide decarbonization plans will require a comprehensive mix of solutions addressing both the generation and end uses of energy,” the authors concluded.