Minnesota is not on track to meet its statutory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goals which are 30% of 2005 levels by 2025 and 80% by 2050. Since 2005, overall GHG emissions in Minnesota have declined by just 8%. Industrial, residential, and commercial emissions have all increased by 15% or more in the same time period and are headed in the wrong direction. The only sector making marked progress in its reduction goals is Minnesota’s electricity sector.
Top 6 takeaways to decarbonize Minnesota’s buildings
On Wednesday, May 25, Finance and Commerce hosted a webinar about the opportunities for Minnesota businesses that exist around decarbonizing the built environment. Clean Energy Economy MN (CEEM) was proud to sponsor and moderate this event that featured four of our business members as panelists.
- Bali Kumar, COO, PACE Loan Group
- Christopher Baker, Project Executive, Willdan
- Ken Smith, President and CEO, Ever-Green Energy
- Becky Wacker, Area General Manager, Trane Technologies
Below are the top takeaways from the presentation.Watch the webinar
1. MN is WAY behind on its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals
2. Combined, commercial buildings and residential structures account for more than 40% of Minnesota’s energy use
If industrial buildings are included in this calculation, the percentage skyrockets to 70.
3. Decarbonizing buildings involves four major factors
- Investments in energy efficiency to reduce the amount of energy used
- Adding renewable energy to the electricity mix
- Shifting refrigerants to lower GHG emitting options
- Electrify and decarbonize how buildings are heated – for every kWh of electricity you put in, you get 3.5kWh of heat in a space, so there is a huge opportunity to dramatically lower emissions from Minnesota’s buildings
4. Digitalization is a critical part of decarbonizing the built environment
The grid has functioned the same from when it was started in 1881 to about 2010 and now it is rapidly changing with distributed generation and the increase of energy storage. Buildings need to respond to the load – how much energy is used is less important than when it is used. The information flow between the grid and the built environment needs to be constant so buildings are able to respond to the grid and regulate instantly. Digitalization is a critical component for buildings to use less energy and at different times of the day – helping lower the demand on the grid and decrease emissions overall.
5. Building to code is building the worst building legally allowed
When builders are looking at new construction opportunities, they are forced to build everything “to code,” but as Bali Kumar of PACE Loan Group points out, this is the worst building a person can legally build. There are many reasons for investing in better buildings.
- An obvious reason is the long-term savings that are expected with investments into energy efficient technologies. The less energy a building uses, the less energy the building owners need to pay for. The added bonus is the reduction in GHG emissions and impact on the environment.
- Building better than code also ensures the building will be viable long-term and no significant retrofits will be needed as building codes continue to require more efficient technologies.
- Investing in energy efficiency is actually lower risk than the average investments made into the United States economy. There are also great financing options, like PACE Loans in Minnesota to make these investments more affordable and realistic.
6. Retrofitting buildings is a critical part of the big picture
A key component of retrofits is benchmarking and modeling. Understanding the current functions of the building and tracking them is critical to understanding the need for improvements and the return owners will get for upgrading.
- The first step in any retrofit is doing as much work in energy efficiency as possible so the building is operating at peak performance.
- Next, owners can consider adding electricity sources, like renewable energy, geothermal systems, etc.
- Finally, having a good maintenance plan in place for the future is very important and often overlooked — digitalization can come in handy here. Using data collected from benchmarking and digitalization can verify that the work done was successful and can help keep the new systems operating well into the future.
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