Pittsburgh Shifts Primary Focus from Energy Reduction to Carbon Reduction Goals

(Credit: Green Building Alliance)

by | May 26, 2022

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(Credit: Green Building Alliance)

For the world to meet the 1.5°C carbon budget set forth in the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries must reduce CO2 emissions in the entire built environment by 50% to 65% by 2030, and reach zero carbon by 2040, according to statements issued at the 26th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Glasgow this past fall. This has caused the Pittsburgh 2030 District, an initiative of the Green Building Alliance (GBA), to announce in a recent progress report that it will move its primary focus from energy reduction to carbon reduction goals in response to “urgent developments in climate science.”

“Accelerating to zero carbon will require changes that include migrating to full building electrification, increasing renewable energy, and advocating for more stringent building codes and energy-related policies and incentives,” said Chris Cieslak, who manages the Pittsburgh and Erie 2030 Districts for GBA.

The shift in focus to reach carbon reduction goals will include efforts to:

  • Conduct deep carbon retrofits on existing buildings to dramatically improve efficiency;
  • Facilitate building electrification to eliminate fossil fuel use, including replacing furnaces and boilers that run on natural gas with ground- or air-source heat pumps;
  • Thermal energy storage;
  • On-site renewable energy.

The built environment accounts for approximately 28% of global CO2 emissions and 40% of all US primary energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions, the report points out. 

The release of the 2021 Progress Report marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of the Pittsburgh 2030 District, which in 2012 set the goal of achieving 50% reductions in energy use and water consumption by the year 2030. Last year, Pittsburgh 2030 District partners reduced energy use to 34.9% below the baseline, compared to 28.9% in 2020. Energy cost savings in 2021 were about $61.9 million, according to the progress report.

In 2021, the Pittsburgh 2030 District also reduced water consumption by 37.1% below the baseline, a slight decrease from the 2020 reduction of 42.1%, but still greater than the 2019 reduction of 19.8%. Partners saved 479 million gallons of water in 2021.

Since the district was established in 2012, its properties have saved $135 million in energy and water costs and avoided more than 1.2 million metric tons of CO2e. The GBA says these reductions were achieved in part through operational changes including lighting and mechanical system retrofits. 

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