DOE Energizes Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit

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by | Apr 4, 2024

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At the annual Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) revealed its latest Better Building Initiatives, aimed at assisting organizations across all sectors of the U.S. economy to enhance energy efficiency while simultaneously reducing operational costs and emissions. These initiatives highlight among others the Better Buildings Commercial Building Heat Pump Accelerator. This program encourages manufacturers to develop high-efficiency, cost-effective rooftop units, promoting commercial entities’ adoption of next-generation heat pump technology.

Initiatives for Enhanced Energy Savings

The DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative collaborates with leading figures in both public and private sectors to develop advanced solutions, foster climate leadership, and support workforce development. These efforts align with the Biden-Harris Administration’s objectives to spearhead energy innovation, reduce energy expenses, and tackle the climate crisis head-on.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm highlighted the significant progress made since the inception of the DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative in 2011. “Our new Commercial Building Heat Pump Accelerator extends our tradition of public-private collaboration, moving cutting-edge clean technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace and playing a crucial role in reducing carbon emissions across our economy,” Granholm stated.

Annually, the U.S. spends approximately $800 billion to power buildings, plants, and homes. With 20% to 30% of this energy typically going to waste, there lies a tremendous opportunity for improvement. The Better Buildings Initiative seeks to leverage this potential by partnering with stakeholders from the public and private sectors to set and achieve ambitious goals related to energy, waste, water, and emissions reduction. Energy efficiency can be improved by enhancing building design, materials, equipment, and operations across various segments of the national economy.

The Accelerator, developed in collaboration with commercial end-users, including Amazon, IKEA, and Target, has attracted participation from major manufacturers like AAON, Carrier Global Corp., Lennox International, Rheem Manufacturing Co., Trane Technologies, and York International Corp. The initiative aims to introduce more efficient and affordable next-generation heat pump rooftop units to the market by 2027. These units are expected to halve emissions and energy costs compared to their natural gas-powered counterparts. If widely adopted, they could result in annual savings of $5 billion for American businesses and commercial entities on utility bills.

DOE’s Public and Private Sector Partnership for Accelerating Climate Solutions

The Better Buildings Summit is an annual leadership conference that brings together over 800 attendees for three days of partner-led meetings, peer exchanges, and accolades. At this year’s Summit, the DOE also announced:

Recognition of Leadership: Over 40 organizations were honored with Better Project, Better Practice, and Climate Finance Innovator awards for their pioneering efforts in decarbonization, energy and water efficiency, or waste reduction. Additionally, 65 organizations were acknowledged with the tenth annual Green Lease Leaders awards for using green leases to further sustainability or net zero ambitions.

New Working Groups on Decarbonization: The launch of three new working groups for Better Climate Challenge partners, focusing on central plant decarbonization, transitioning to low-impact refrigerants, and devising financial strategies for industrial decarbonization.

Showcasing Successful Pathways: Overhauling the DOE’s Better Buildings Solution Center has improved its navigation, functionality, and design. A new, robust search platform enables more effective filtering of over 3,000 efficiency and decarbonization solutions.

DOE Lighting Prize American Made Challenge: This challenge’s third and final phase offers $10 million in prizes for up to four winners who successfully produce and install next-generation lighting products for commercial buildings.

Through the Better Buildings Initiative, the DOE collaborates with commercial, public, industrial, and residential organizations to improve building efficiency, yielding energy and cost savings while mitigating emissions and bolstering the economy. Over 900 Better Buildings partners have saved $18.5 billion in energy costs and shared their innovative strategies to date. The Better Buildings Solution Center website is a repository for over 3,000 verified efficiency and decarbonization solutions, supporting the initiative’s ongoing mission to enhance sustainability and economic performance across the U.S.

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