The Impact Of Energy Efficiency On Boston’s Economic Development – > News > Press releases > 2023 release > New methodology reveals health and climate impacts of reducing building energy consumption
Boston, MA — Improving energy efficiency in buildings can save money, and it can also reduce carbon emissions and air pollution that contribute to climate change and health. But the climate and health benefits of reducing the energy consumption of buildings are rarely measured.
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The Impact Of Energy Efficiency On Boston’s Economic Development
Now researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston University, and Oregon State University have developed a new method to calculate the health and climate impacts of these energy savings.
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The new methodology, described in a September 8 article in the journal Building and Environment, is part of a four-year project called Co-Benefits of the Built Environment (CoBE). Initial work with CoBE focused on calculating the country-level health and climate benefits of energy savings in buildings; the newly developed method can be used to estimate those benefits at the regional, municipal or individual building scale.
“The decisions we make about our buildings directly affect our climate and our health,” said Joseph Allen, associate professor of exposure assessment science at the Harvard Chan School and lead author of the study. “CoBE is an important advance for two reasons: It adds a health lens to what is largely a carbon conversation, and it allows us to look into the future to optimize decision-making about the impact of energy efficiency measures today. in buildings”.
The new methodology, available for public use through a tool on the CoBE website, allows building owners, operators and investors to easily make future projections of the climate and health co-benefits of their energy decisions up to 2050. The CoBE website explains how the tool works and includes a blog, FAQs, case studies and videos to guide users.
To use the online tool, building owners or operators enter basic information about a specific building or set of buildings, such as location, size, energy sources and energy consumption. The tool calculates a building’s energy and emissions footprints, as well as climate and health impacts, in dollar terms. Users can then use the tool to estimate co-benefits under different energy use scenarios.
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The CoBE tool uses a variety of models and datasets to perform its calculations. To project emissions reductions from energy conservation, CoBE uses energy and emissions projections from the US Energy Information Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. To monetize climate impacts, CoBE uses the Social Cost of Carbon, a tool developed by the US government’s Interagency Working Group that monetizes the long-term effects of each ton of greenhouse gas emissions. To measure health impacts, CoBE calculates premature deaths and associated health costs from exposure to fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5), one of the most harmful types of pollution from burning fossil fuels.
“Health benefits are often underestimated in decisions about energy strategy, carbon offsetting and other carbon emission reduction measures,” said Jonathan Buonocore, MD, Boston University School of Public Health and co-author of the CoBE project. “The CoBE tool can put a monetary value on the health benefits of reducing emissions.”
To demonstrate the usefulness of the CoBE tool, the co-authors developed a case study modeling the impact of hypothetical reductions in electricity use among buildings in the United States from 2018 to 2050. They determined that the geographic location of the building would play an important role. determining the health and climate impacts of reduced energy use. For example, for every dollar saved in electricity in 2018, a region in Wisconsin and Michigan will see a combined $0.52 to $0.70 in health and climate benefits due to reduced energy provided by fossil fuels. Overall, for every dollar of electricity savings in 2050, there would be another $0.02 to $0.81 in additional savings in health and climate co-benefits.
“The CoBE tool provides a user-friendly way for decision-makers and other stakeholders to assess their current performance and quantify the health and climate co-benefits of different energy-saving scenarios, improving the health and well-being of people and our planet. “, said lead author and CoBE project co-founder Parichehr Salimifard, associate professor of architectural engineering at Oregon State University’s College of Engineering.
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“A new method to calculate projected health and climate co-benefits of energy savings by 2050,” Parichehr Salimifard, Marissa Rainbolt, Jonathan Buonocore, Mahala Lahvis, Brian Sousa, Joseph G. Allen, Building and Environment, September 8, 2023 doi : 10.1016/j.buildenv.2023.110618.
Brings together dedicated experts from multiple disciplines to train the next generation of global health leaders and develop powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the lab to people’s lives—not only by making scientific breakthroughs, but also by working to change individual behaviors, public policy, and healthcare practices. Each year, the Harvard Chan School’s more than 400 faculty members teach more than 1,000 full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, it is recognized as America’s oldest professional training program in public health. State law requires Massachusetts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 50 percent and 85 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. 2050. Most experts agree that to meet these goals, New England must decarbonize its power grid and electrify transportation, heating and cooking. In short, we need to replace gasoline and natural gas with electricity. But how we value electricity complicates these efforts to address climate change.
The cost of electricity consists of two main elements: generation and transmission. The more electricity the household consumes, the higher these costs are. The cost of transmission and distribution lines that bring electricity to homes and businesses does not vary depending on how much electricity consumers use. These are called fixed costs. Transmission and distribution are priced based on how much electricity a household consumes, although these costs are not linked to consumption. This is wrong and hurts efforts to promote electrification to address climate change.
Look at my electricity bill as an example. I pay 10.8 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity. The cost depends on how much I consume, which is the right way to pay for that part of my bill. But I also pay per kWh for transmission and distribution (11.5 cents) and other fees for solar and energy efficiency incentives (2.4 cents). These costs should not depend on how much electricity I consume and should not be calculated on that basis. The State Department of Public Utilities charges 14 cents per kWh of electricity, known as the volume tariff. This means the volume rate is twice what it should be.
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DPU should mandate the volume rate to cover energy costs only, in my case 10.8 cents per kWh. How will the Commonwealth pay for infrastructure if we stop including these costs in our volume ratio? There are two ways to do this while maintaining the correct volume rate.
The first is to increase the connection fee – the fee charged to households to connect to the grid. This fee does not depend on how much electricity is consumed. So households will still pay their share for the infrastructure, but they will pay the correct price for the increase in electricity they use from electrification. This is a fixed payment to pay for fixed costs. To protect low-income households, the DPU may charge a different fee based on household income or median income by zip code.
A second option is to treat electrical infrastructure the same way the government treats transportation infrastructure like roads: Use the tax system to cover those costs.
The impact of a state’s flawed electricity pricing system on electrification incentives is huge. Check out the incentives to switch to electric cars. A typical EV sedan driven 12,000 miles per year will consume about 4,500 kWh of electricity per year. At current gasoline and electricity prices, consumers will still save on energy costs. But the 14 cents per kWh surcharge would cost an extra $630 a year, which equates to a $1.58 gas tax per gallon of gasoline driven 30 miles.
How Do Window Frames Impact Energy Consumption?
What about incentives to buy heat pumps that are now three times more efficient than natural gas furnaces and work well even in colder climates? They are more expensive to buy and install. Heat pumps are no cheaper to run than natural gas furnaces because Massachusetts misrates electricity. If DPU were to rate electricity correctly, consumers would save on energy costs.
Based on a recent Cadmus study on heat pump efficiency, it would cost 41 cents an hour to heat my home when it’s 32 degrees outside at my current electric rate. If I instead used my 96 percent efficient furnace, it would cost me 38 cents an hour to heat at my current natural gas rate. But if electricity prices were right, I would save 20 cents an hour using my heat pump at 32 degrees; the
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