Building a better, decarbonized world means raising standards for all buildings, new and old says Philippe Delorme, executive vice-president, energy management, Schneider Electric

Energy waste is happening all around us, contributing to climate change. Yet fighting this invisible foe is near impossible – unless we make the invisible energy loss visible. Digital innovation and electrification hold the key to unlocking our ability to see and measure our impact on the planet, so we can recognize and reduce it. 

The solutions already exist. If we truly want to tackle climate change, it makes sense to turn our attention to the biggest contributors.

Buildings account for almost a third of the world’s CO2 emissions by source, a number that rises to almost 40% when factoring in construction. In the developing world, residential homes are shortly set to become the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Faster adoption of robust standards for new buildings

While we are seeing more developers delivering energy-efficient buildings, progress remains slow.

Thankfully, tighter regulations are being adopted in many parts of the world. In Europe, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) requires all new buildings from 2021 to be nearly zero-energy (NZEB). Hong Kong aims to reduce its absolute carbon emissions in 2030 by between 26% and 36%, relative to 2005 levels. Singapore wants at least 80% of its commercial and public buildings Green Mark certified by 2030. In the US, 23 states have committed to greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets via legislation or executive order.

Greener energy mix in homes and buildings

Alongside digital retrofits, the decarbonization of heat through electrification will play a major role in reducing our impact on the planet. Choosing proven, safe and cost-effective technologies such as electric heat pumps, already widely available, can be powered by 100% renewable energy sources and deployed today are the best (and only realistic) choice for decarbonizing domestic heating systems currently heavily reliant on fossil fuels. 

Our modelling, leveraging BloombergNEF’s Heating Unit Economics Calculator, suggests that in commercial buildings, there is a strong business case for installing electric systems, over gas or oil-based ones. Despite this, only around 5% of heating in buildings is currently electrified.1 This number will have to increase to 80-90% by 2050 to successfully mitigate the worst effects of climate change.2 As demand for green buildings from corporate and private tenants is on the rise, so it’s an investment worth making.

Clarity of mission and vision: renewable energy sources and clean electricity are key to fighting global warming

We are the first generation to really know about climate change, and perhaps the last to be able to make a difference. With the help of AI-enabled and software driven smart energy management solutions, consumers, building owners and tenants will be in the driving seat of how energy is produced, stored, distributed and consumed. The ability to produce renewable energy through solar and microgrids and store it for future use then makes it possible for the smart building system to prioritize green energy power, ensuring power-hungry appliances and devices, including EVs, consume most of their energy from decarbonized energy sources, ultimately benefitting the planet.