Fossil-fueled appliances in buildings are a significant source of emissions, not only of greenhouse gases but also pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are responsible for a variety of air and water quality and health problems. A model rule recently developed and published by RAP proposes an approach to regulating NOx emissions from water heaters over time. The goal is to drive transformation of the market for these appliances, particularly through adoption of efficient electric heat pump models. Similar appliance emission rules are already in place for water heaters and furnaces in the Bay Area of California and elsewhere, and other agencies are likely to follow suit.
To make such a transformation smooth for households, new appliance technology must be affordable and accessible. In an interactive webinar, panelists from RAP, RMI, Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management and the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation discussed the keys to transforming this market, from innovative appliance standards to consumer-friendly pilot programs.
Comments Off on Transforming the Appliance Market: Strategies for Lower-Emissions Heat and Hot Water
Fossil-fueled appliances in buildings are a significant source of emissions, not only of greenhouse gases but also pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are responsible for a variety of air and water quality and health problems. In a webinar presentation, panelists from RAP, RMI, Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management and the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation discussed ways to drive transformation of the appliance market to reduce emissions.
Comments Off on Time for a System Update: Financing our Buildings’ Future
Buildings should last decades or longer, but to do so they must be periodically modernized — and that’s challenging when financing options are limited. This means we are missing opportunities to implement new technologies that support efficiency, health and productivity in homes and businesses — and opportunities to equitably improve buildings.
Our homes, offices, stores and recreational centers consume 41% of total U.S. energy use. In cities, this figure can be as high as 70%. Home energy use should not be a significant financial burden, but over 25% of U.S. households pay more than 6% of their monthly income on energy bills, and 13% pay more than 10%; these disparities are concentrated among people of color and low-income communities in Southern states.
New buildings benefit from updated energy codes and consequently tend to be more efficient. However, half of the U.S. housing stock was built before 1980, and most of it lags far behind current building standards. Even some newer buildings do not perform as intended, wasting more than 30% of the energy they use. While we have the tools and technologies to upgrade these buildings, retrofits are expensive and often require financing, and though many energy-efficient and electrified options reduce costs over time, they cost more up front.
The Building Blocks of Effective Finance
Many states have adopted financing policies to overcome these cost barriers. These generally fall into three categories: direct or indirect financial grants to decrease cost at the point of sale; policies that decrease cost over time through rebates and tax incentives; and policies that provide low-cost financing. Most states have financing policies that fall into the first two categories, such as point-of-sale rebates and tax incentives. About half of the states have policies that provide low-cost financing.
State decision-makers should review both proposed and existing mechanisms in all these three categories to answer several questions:
Do existing policies reach intended population segments? Depending on state goals, financial incentives may be targeted to certain populations. For instance, many states target financial incentives to low- or moderate-income households, aiming to decrease energy costs while addressing inequality and the legacy of systemic racism. Others may focus on incentives to owners of large commercial or industrial buildings to increase efficiency and decrease cost and carbon emissions.
Does the structure of the incentive achieve the desired results? States need to ensure that the customer segment they are targeting can take effective advantage of the incentive. For instance, tax incentives are more easily used by wealthier individuals and businesses, while point-of-sale rebates are more accessible to low- and moderate-income households and members of overburdened communities.
Does financing cover the newest and most energy-efficient technologies? One potential barrier to efficient and cost-effective electrification is state policies that bar fuel switching or rely on a limited definition of energy efficiency (e.g., covering only kilowatt-hours rather than total energy saved).
Have technologies reached market parity or saturation? When this is the case, it’s possible that incentives can be reduced or eliminated, at least for specific target segments.
Are incentives aligned with wider energy goals? Where practical, policymakers should strive to design incentives to align with ultimate goals (e.g., addressing climate change and reducing peak load) and to be technology-neutral.
Beyond these traditional categories, recent innovations in financing policies have stretched the bounds of market transformation, especially when paired with other policies.
One set of innovative policies falls under the category of promoting performance-savvy appraisal. This approach recognizes that appraisals play a critical role in financing the construction and renovation of buildings, but that they typically do not account for the full value of energy efficiency and high performance. This blind spot leads private parties to underinvest in building performance. One example of this is owners’ reluctance to invest in renovations to improve energy efficiency out of concern that they will not recoup the investment when they sell the building.
As laid out in a fact sheet from the Institute for Market Transformation, the elements of a performance-savvy appraisal policy are:
Require that government appraisers receive training on energy efficiency and building performance broadly.
Provide technical assistance to industry: Help appraisers and their clients to fully value building performance and to understand why doing so is in their interest.
Add building performance training courses to requirements for individuals to receive and renew appraisal licensing (continuing education). Oregon is the first state to require this.
Facilitate training courses for appraisers and others on valuing building performance.
By making building performance visible to the market, benchmarking and transparency laws are a good complement to performance-savvy appraisal policies.
Setting an Ambitious Example: Ithaca, New York
The most ambitious financing policies recognize that while traditional finance has done much good, it is not producing investment in improved building performance on pace with what climate scientists (as reflected, for example, in the 2022 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have determined is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change or to meet many states’ bold climate commitments.
The leading example of truly ambitious building decarbonization finance policy is the small city of Ithaca, New York. Recognizing that despite decades of leading policies and programs to drive building renovation, it was far from on pace to achieving its climate commitment, Ithaca put in place a boldpolicy to finance the renovation and electrification of 6,000 buildings.
Ithaca developed a strategy to leverage private equity finance, state incentives and other sources for this project at a total cost of $600 million (a figure that dwarfs the city’s annual budget of $80 million). Ithaca recognized that such renovations will pencil out for some but not all buildings. So, Ithaca took a portfolio approach and aggregated its buildings together for financing portfolios that include buildings with varying paybacks for such renovations. Using local taxpayer, ratepayer and federal funds, the city directs subsidies to owners, including low- and moderate-income households where low credit scores and lack of capital posed barriers. Ithaca further facilitates the financing of renovations, especially by low- and moderate-income ratepayers, by arranging on-bill financing so that ratepayers can repay renovations on their utility bills. To secure private equity investment — investors have already committed about $105 million for Phase 1 — the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Kresge Foundation provide loan loss reserves to insulate investors from risk.
Considered as a whole, Ithaca’s financing policy may be the first in the United States to put a U.S. jurisdiction on a path to achieve building decarbonization at a pace consistent with bold climate commitments.
Risks, Standards and Planning
Even Ithaca’s approach may fall short in one regard. The experience of Massachusetts, which provides energy efficiency renovations for affordable housing at essentially no cost, shows that home and building owners will often not avail themselves of even extremely generous financing programs. Many have more pressing demands on their time and resources, particularly when one in five U.S. households reported reducing or forgoing necessities such as food or medicine to pay an energy bill.
Combining financing with building performance standards and other mandates can help overcome this inertia. Ithaca has committed to put in place a building performance standard and joined President Biden’s National BPS Coalition. The Institute for Market Transformation has developed a concept that simultaneously addresses all the root causes of inaction on building renovations by marrying the bold financing, contracting and workforce development approaches used by Ithaca with a building performance standard.
As part of the Biden administration’s whole-of-government approach to fighting climate change, federal financial regulatory agencies including the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Reserve have moved to require companies to account for, plan for and take steps to prepare for risks associated with climate change, including transition risk as governments put in place policies like building performance standards and carbon taxes to drive decarbonization of the economy. The most prominent such step is the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed rule requiring public companies and other issuers of securities to assess and publish their risk exposure and greenhouse gas emissions. These policies will give financial incentives to lenders and investors to invest in high-performing buildings and renovations and serve as a force multiplier for building performance standards and other mandates to drive action on the ground.
A broad range of both proven finance policies and exciting and innovative new policies is available to states. With the impacts of climate change and the barrier of housing affordability presenting a twin crisis, now is the time for states to act.
Comments Off on Zestaw narzędzi do wdrożenia pomp ciepła globalnie i na masową skalę
Pompy ciepła to jedna z kluczowych technologii na drodze transformacji energetycznej, już niedługo stanie się najważniejszą technologią dla dekarbonizacji ogrzewnictwa. Obecnie zdecydowana większość ciepła do gospodarstw domowych jest dostarczana przez paliwa kopalne. W celu promowania i zachęcania do instalowania pomp ciepła na całym świecie, w ramach wspólnego projektu Regulatory Assistance Project, CLASP i Global Buildings Performance Network, opracowany został niniejszy poradnik w zakresie pomp ciepła, który zawiera zestaw narzędzi i porad dotyczących ich stosowania, przeznaczonych dla decydentów zainteresowanych promowaniem tej niezbędnej technologii.
Niniejszy zestaw narzędzi stanowi syntezę różnych sposobów promowania wdrażania pomp ciepła oraz przewodnik po projektowaniu najlepszych pakietów polityk. Kompletny pakiet polityk musi uwzględniać fundament, ale także brać pod uwagę każdy filar. Przedstawiamy szczegóły, przykłady i potencjalne problemy oraz rozwiązania w ramach różnych omawianych elementów polityk.
Fundament tego zestawu narzędzi to potrzeba koordynacji i komunikacji wokół działań, strategii i polityk dotyczących pomp ciepła.
W filarze 1 rozważane są instrumenty ekonomiczne i rynkowe. Instrumenty te są zasadniczo związane z równoważeniem ekonomiki różnych technologii grzewczych w kierunku czystych opcji, takich jak pompy ciepła, tak, aby ich koszty w całym okresie użytkowania były niższe niż alternatywy oparte na paliwach kopalnych.
Filar 2 dotyczy wsparcia finansowego. W ramach tego filaru identyfikujemy trzy kluczowe elementy wsparcia finansowego dla pomp ciepła – dotacje i ulgi podatkowe, pożyczki oraz rozwiązania typu heat-as-a-service (ciepło jako usługa).
Filar 3 uwzględnia regulacje i standardy. Przyglądamy się kodeksom budowlanym i normom dotyczącym budynków, normom dotyczącym urządzeń oraz planowaniu i strefowaniu ogrzewania.
Aby zbudować skuteczny pakiet polityk dotyczących pomp ciepła, decydenci muszą wziąć pod uwagę tak fundament, jak również każdy z filarów, dostosować je do specyfiki lokalnej, wdrożyć oraz monitorować skuteczność ich funkcjonowania.
Comments Off on Tackling the Job of Building Modernization: A Toolkit for State Decision-Makers
Energy efficiency and electrification are the dynamic duo of a modern building. Technology advances in both these areas mean that we have the ability to improve the comfort and health of a building’s residents, save them money, reduce air pollution and better manage demand on the power system. In a time of rising costs and rising concern about environmental impacts, the opportunity to modernize buildings is more urgent than ever.
But various barriers to building modernization continue to exist:
A lack of financial help to address the high initial cost of making upgrades;
The “split incentive” problem for renters, where they pay the energy bills but their landlords bear the costs of improvements;
Regulatory barriers such as outdated building codes or energy efficiency rules that prohibit load-building by utilities;
Gaps in the energy workforce; and
A sometimes arcane decision-making process that doesn’t lend itself well to diverse public participation.
The key to breaking this status quo and catalyzing change is held by state policymakers and legislators, who can pass new policies to give regulators, consumers and utilities the tools they need to modernize buildings. That’s why we’re introducing our Building Modernization Legislative Toolkit, a resource for policymakers seeking to help move forward the energy transition in buildings. Working with partner organizations, we’ve assembled a comprehensive look at key topic areas for building modernization along with legislative options for each area, which states can consider and adapt to their own situations and goals.
The good news is that legislative change is already starting to happen, and the options outlined in the toolkit are inspired by or based on actions that states have already taken.
We’ve organized our legislative options into seven topic areas:
Access to the decision-making process. Energy costs and the impacts of climate change both fall most heavily on overburdened communities. Without wide-ranging public input, policy decisions to address these challenges are less likely to result in equitable outcomes. The toolkit outlines options to set requirements for state agencies in general, or public utility commissions or environmental regulators specifically, to ensure inclusive access.
Funding and finance policies. Most states already have funding and finance policies; however, existing funding policies may not be updated to address current technologies or may not be effectively reaching all segments of society. Innovative policy options from other states could provide examples of how states can help households and businesses mitigate the cost of modernizing their buildings’ energy use. These include rebates, loans and grants; direct installation programs; income tax credits and deductions; and sales tax exemptions or reductions.
Weatherization and home repair. Energy-burdened households’ need for financial assistance far outweighs the amount available via federal programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Weatherization Assistance Program. State action can fill this gap to help improve energy efficiency, comfort and health. Funding can specifically target homes that need repairs, such as mold remediation, before weatherization can be done effectively. Cutting-edge examples from states include providing authorization and direction to state agencies that take a more holistic approach, improving coordination, “braiding” funds from different programs together and offering a one-stop-shop application process.
Building codes and standards. Up-to-date energy codes can produce significant health, environmental and economic benefits but are not always updated to take full advantage of current efficient, electrified technologies. Building codes also address new buildings but do nothing to modernize buildings built decades ago. Consequently, some states and localities are going beyond the traditional options to experiment with a more holistic approach in the form of building performance standards to ensure buildings aren’t stuck in the past.
Electrification. Legislation may be needed to remove various barriers to households going electric, such as prohibitions on fuel switching. The toolkit suggests options for states where policy direction is needed for public utility commissions to create beneficial electrification plans, revise planning processes and promote equity.
Gas utility planning. As policymakers, utilities and consumers all rethink how to meet their space and water heating needs, the role played by fossil gas will change, and the approach to system planning needs to change likewise. The toolkit focuses on planning and line extension policies; it also introduces the idea of clean heat standards, currently under consideration in several states.
Workforce development. Without enough qualified workers to weatherize homes and install new appliances, the energy transition will be less affordable and slower than necessary. States have an opportunity to open up new education and training paths, especially for potential workers from overburdened populations. Vocational programs can be designed for students to earn as they learn.
This blog is the first in a series; in the coming weeks, we’ll take a closer look at each of the tools in our building modernization toolkit. We’ll showcase policy options that legislatures in various states are moving forward — demonstrating how lawmakers can make use of these tools to build an approach that works for their state. Legislative change has the potential to lift barriers, drive market transformation and prioritize communities that need support to realize the benefits of modern buildings.
Comments Off on Calefacción con hidrógeno: revisión de la evidencia científica
La energía utilizada para la calefacción y refrigeración representa alrededor del 50% del consumo total de energía en el mundo. De esta cifra, casi la mitad se consume para calentar edificios. Y la mayor parte de la energía utilizada se obtiene de combustibles fósiles. Si bien las medidas de eficiencia energética en los edificios pueden contribuir enormemente a reducir las emisiones de la calefacción y la refrigeración, sigue habiendo una gran demanda de alternativas de calefacción con bajas o nulas emisiones de carbono.
Últimamente, los representantes de la industria del gas y la calefacción han promovido el hidrógeno verde como solución clave para sustituir al gas fósil en la red de distribución. Aunque hay muchos usos finales legítimos, actuales y futuros, para el hidrógeno verde, ¿existen pruebas que justifiquen la calefacción de edificios con hidrógeno?
Este artículo analiza diversos análisis independientes sobre el uso del hidrógeno para calentar espacios interiores y para el uso de agua caliente. Se incluyen un total de 32 estudios realizados a escala internacional, regional, nacional, estatal y municipal por un amplio abanico de entidades, como universidades, institutos de investigación, organizaciones intergubernamentales y consultoras. Ninguno de los 32 estudios, mediante el análisis de las pruebas, avala el uso generalizado del hidrógeno para calefacción. Por el contrario, la investigación independiente existente hasta el momento sugiere que, en comparación con otras alternativas como las bombas de calor, la energía solar térmica y la calefacción urbana, el uso del hidrógeno para la calefacción doméstica es menos económico, menos eficiente, consume más recursos y está asociado a un mayor impacto medioambiental.
Comments Off on To Serve Everyone, IRA’s Climate Grants Need Inclusive Participation
As expansive and even overwhelming as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) seems to be, it is important to remember that the IRA authorizes a number of different programs that will benefit states — programs, for example, that may come out of the Department of Energy to state energy offices, or from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to state environmental agencies.
The EPA’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grants program (CPRG) is likely to be some of the first IRA funding that states will see. The CPRG will provide states with a significant springboard to reduce their carbon emissions. Before suggesting how states can make the most of this, let’s take a moment and outline the program.
What Is Clear: An Opportunity for States
The CPRG is a two-part program. Part 1 ($250 million) provides formula grants to every state. This will support states to develop a carbon reduction plan. Part 1 is on its way; the announcement and guidance will be coming out on March 1, and a Notice of Intent to Participate from states will be due March 31.
Part 2 ($4.6 billion) sets out a program of additional grants, funding for states to carry out elements of their plans and will probably roll out in early 2024. While Part 1 provides every state money for planning, Part 2 will require states to compete for funding to support the implementation of their carbon reduction programs.
For states that have yet to develop climate plans, this is an opportunity to use federal funding to explore ways to modernize your state’s economy. More specifically, this is a chance to look at the ways that your citizens, for example, manufacture products, grow crops, transport themselves, and heat and cool their homes — all sectors of your economy that produce significant carbon emissions.
In case a state doesn’t think that GHG planning is important, the CPRG provides for political subdivisions within a state, such as municipalities or local air agencies, to participate. Even where states have already developed climate action plans, these federal dollars could be very useful in updating and improving existing plans.
What Is Not Clear: Support for All Communities
While the CPRG will support states in developing carbon reduction plans, it is not clear the degree to which the program will support improving the outreach and public engagement necessary to ensure that a plan is equitable and that it will serve all communities.
This is a challenge for even successfully developed state plans. For example, in 2021, the Vermont Climate Council, spent over 10 months developing the Vermont Climate Action Plan. This was a significant undertaking by state agencies and citizens and the plan is an admirable start. However, the plan’s authors acknowledge in its preface that robust marginalized community representation was missing from the stakeholder participation:
This initial Climate Action Plan represents one of the first public processes in the State of Vermont to acknowledge and try purposefully to incorporate equity and the principles of a just transition in both its development and outcome — but we know we fell short. During our meetings and outreach, too few Vermonters had their voices lifted up to join the voices of those who have also participated in similar endeavors in the past. In our development of pathways, strategies, and actions, we faced challenges creating programs and policies organically in partnership with marginalized communities and individuals in Vermont and to envision new ways to ensure a just transition for all of us. As we continue forward, we have a strong desire to engage more Vermonters deeply and equitably in this transition, recognizing the historical and present harms and systemic injustices that are at work here in Vermont and elsewhere.
In developing its 2021 Climate Action Plan, Vermont saw first-hand that these working Vermonters did not have the time or capacity to participate and engage. This was not because they weren’t notified or encouraged to participate. People are busy earning a living. And their representatives are also challenged to participate because they work on many other pressing equity-related topics besides climate mitigation, including housing, transportation, policing, food, racism, and education. Frontline advocates generally recognize the importance of this work, but simply don’t have the bandwidth or the means to meaningfully participate.
Hearing from and consulting with marginalized communities isn’t just a matter of equitable inclusion — it’s essential to achieve the goals of climate policies, period. We need programs that are able to deliver GHG savings in all communities and to all income levels. Greater inclusion in planning will yield better, more comprehensive initiatives, in addition to more equitable program designs and benefits.
So, hopefully the EPA will recognize this need and enable states to provide direct support for community participation in CPRG-funded state planning efforts. The agency will have to make that determination.
If the EPA determines that the IRA does not allow for this, then hopefully the agency will still recognize the need and identify any other resources that it might have to help states to support this critical piece of carbon planning. The EPA may have available other funding for communities that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution and climate change. For example, there is air monitoring funding, along with environmental and climate justice block grant opportunities, that may support this work and can be stacked with CPRG funding. Finessing support for intermediaries like civic organizations or faith-based groups might also be helpful in incorporating the voices of frontline communities.
Apart from the question of the federal funding for state carbon planning, states agencies could still ask whether or not their public engagement is as thorough as it might be or whether it needs to be more welcoming to the public to be truly representative. RAP’s Public Access and Participation Plans: A Starter Kit for State Agencies is a document that outlines simple steps that state agencies can take to improve their outreach, and public participation.
Comments Off on NOx Standards for Water Heaters: Model Rule Technical Support Document
RAP developed a model rule for use by U.S. state and local air quality regulators to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from water heaters. This technical support document was published to assist regulators and staff in understanding and making use of the model rule. It describes why water heaters are a significant source of air pollution, why NOx emissions standards are an excellent tool for reducing the environmental impact of water heaters and how those standards can promote electrification and market transformation. It also explains in detail the design and structure of the model rule.
Comments Off on ‘Hydrogen-ready’ boilers – a lifeline for fossil fuel heating in Europe
The heating industry is in turmoil. The need to decarbonise energy demand as well as the gas crisis caused by the war in Ukraine have led to governments around Europe setting phase-out dates for the installation of fossil fuel heating systems — something also being considered by EU legislators.
Despite the urgent need to decarbonise and remove fossil fuels, there is a concerning pushback that attempts to preserve the status quo.
Enter ‘hydrogen-ready’ or ‘renewable fuel-ready’ boilers; the fossil fuel heating industry’s latest attempt to slow down clean heating.
During negotiations of the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) some members of the European Parliament proposed that “boilers certified to run on renewable fuels … shall not be considered fossil heating systems”.
‘Renewable fuels’ could include hydrogen or biomass-based fuels, such as biogas and bio-oil – both seen to have only a very limited growth potential.
Rather than require all new buildings to be fitted with clean heating systems, such as heat pumps, or be connected to district heating, the proposal would allow the installation of fossil fuel heating systems as long as they could, in theory, one day also run on renewable fuels.
The problem is that a hydrogen-ready boiler is a fossil fuel boiler as long as there is no green hydrogen to supply it. Currently only 0.04% of global hydrogen production is green hydrogen.
We have seen such approaches before: when the coal industry came under pressure to reduce emissions it promised ‘clean coal’ using carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Significant policy support was subsequently offered, and clean coal attracted a lot of attention from policymakers and the media. The idea was to build CCS-ready coal plants.
However, after years of pilot projects and substantial public investment in coal power plants with CCS, only a single commercially operating facility remains – one 115 megawatt unit of the Boundary Dam Power Station in Saskatchewan, Canada.
The European Union spent €587 million to support the development of clean coal and has little to show for it. If we can learn anything from the history of clean coal, then it is this: great expectations and promises by incumbent industries do not guarantee good outcomes.
Green hydrogen from renewable electricity – the only zero-carbon form of hydrogen – will already stretch production for use in sectors where less costly alternatives are unavailable.
We also know that concerns over resource availability and sustainability limit the growth potential of any biomass-based heat sources. This is indeed recognised within the commission’s own impact assessments behind the Fitfor55 package.
The idea that we will have abundant green hydrogen or clean bioenergy supplies sufficient to replace fossil fuels for heating is fanciful. Yet off-the-shelf heat pumps and district heating can reduce primary energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions immediately and cost-effectively.
The International Energy Agency has said that after 2025, we should stop installing fossil fuel boilers. There is no guarantee, indeed it seems quite unlikely, that hydrogen will ever flow through gas distribution networks and biogas and bio-oil will always be limited.
Therefore, most fossil fuel heating systems installed are likely to always run on fossil fuels. Proven technologies, such as heat pumps and clean district heating, immediately reduce carbon emissions, and with the grid and heating supplies getting cleaner every year, those emission reductions will only increase going forward.
The EPBD could be the solution
We’re still in the middle of an energy crisis primarily linked to gas prices. With so much gas used for heating, the EU has the chance to course-correct this obviously problematic issue with the current EPBD.
Providing the energy industry and member states with clarity and direction on heating is vital to ensure investment is driven into the rapid deployment of actual clean heating technologies. The proposed greenwashing of fossil fuel boilers risks undermining progress in the buildings sector where rapid progress is needed.
The original version of this article appeared in Euractiv.
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