On Tuesday, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced a series of initiatives to reduce the negative environmental impacts of residential and commercial buildings. Homes and buildings generate more than one-third of the carbon pollution released by the United States each year, use about 40% of the country’s energy, and result in more than $100 billion of waste due to energy inefficiency. In response to the building and construction sector’s significant contributions to climate change, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) unveiled the Initiative for Better Energy, Emissions, and Equity (E3), a program designed to increase energy efficiency in buildings through the use of sustainable heating and cooling technologies.
As part of E3, the DOE’s Building Technologies Office is launching numerous endeavors to increase accessibility to high performance heat pumps, which present greener alternatives to space and water heaters that rely on fossil fuels. Heat pumps offer advantages over conventional equipment that include the combination of heating and cooling in one system, grid connectivity to enable integration with renewable power like solar and wind, and healthier indoor and outdoor air quality. In order to catalyze market transitions to heat pump water heaters, the DOE will launch a heat pump technology challenge to spur adoption of pumps in cold climates, help contractors identify malfunctioning HVAC systems with smart diagnostic tools, and support ongoing efforts to install high-efficiency heat pumps in all buildings nationwide.
E3 will also facilitate advancements in other key elements of building infrastructure. The DOE’s national laboratories, dedicated to cutting-edge energy research and development, recently made available $8.5 million in funding to parties interested in advancing building efficiency. E3 will leverage the expertise of national labs to work with manufacturers and develop cost-competitive, low-emission refrigerants and water heater technologies. Furthermore, E3 will support the newly formed Partnership for Advanced Window Solutions, a collaborative organization that will expand the availability of highly efficient windows and window attachments.
The DOE’s announcement reflects the Biden Administration’s emphasis on immediate action to address the climate crisis. The approach outlined in E3 seeks to coordinate federal activities with state governments, the private sector, unions, trades and other key stakeholders to enable a transition to a more sustainable future.