Energy independence is within our grasp, according to Edward Mazria, founder and executive director of Architecture 2030. Speaking at the first annual National Clean Energy Summit hosted by U.S. Senator Harry Reid, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Mazria explained that buildings are the key to phasing out conventional coal and reducing oil imports by 86% by the year 2030.
Presenting a three-pronged solution called the 2030 Blueprint, Mazria showed how energy use in buildings is fueling both escalating energy needs and climate change. Buildings are responsible for about half (48%) of all energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the US annually, and they use 76% of all the energy produced by the nation's power plants. According to Mazria, "If you are serious about energy independence and climate change, you must tackle the Building Sector."
The importance of buildings was also touted by President Clinton, who delivered the opening keynote address at the summit. Clinton spoke on the failure of most countries to meet their GHG reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol and stressed the critical need to address the Building Sector in order to make real progress.
The 2030 Blueprint provides a straightforward process for addressing the Building Sector. The three pieces that make up the plan are the 2030 Challenge, Homeowner Choices and Renewable Energy. The 2030 Challenge, issued by Architecture 2030 in January 2006, calls for all new buildings and major renovations to reduce their fossil-fuel GHG-emitting energy consumption by 50% by 2010, and for incrementally increasing the reductions every five years so that all new buildings and major renovations are "carbon neutral" by 2030. The Challenge has been widely adopted throughout the US. Homeowner Choices refers to incentives for energy-efficient equipment and appliances in existing homes. Renewable Energy includes the passage of a federal Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) similar to renewable standards for electricity generation already adopted by many states.
"By implementing the 2030 Blueprint, the US could completely replace conventional coal by the year 2025," explained Mazria. Following the Blueprint would also free up the natural gas used to produce the electricity currently used in buildings by the year 2030, so that it could be used to generate electricity for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles. "We very much support T. Boone Pickens' plan, however, we propose using the freed-up natural gas to generate electricity for vehicles, as opposed to using it directly in vehicles," said Mazria. The 2025 and 2030 goals are based on achieving an RPS of only 30% by the year 2030. If a 50% RPS is implemented, the US would be able to meet an even more aggressive time schedule.
The speed at which these goals can be achieved is especially significant, given the increasing call for energy independence and the shortening timeline called for by scientists on climate change. By comparison, competing options, such as coal with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) and nuclear, have much longer timelines and are much more expensive. CCS, which has not been proven economically feasible, is 15 to 20 years out while each nuclear power plant takes 8 to 12 years to build.
To implement the 2030 Blueprint, Architecture 2030 is calling for 1) upgrading the National Building Energy Conservation Code Standard to meet the 2030 Challenge targets, 2) investing $21.6 billion a year for five years in building energy efficiency and 3) passing federal legislation requiring an aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard for electricity generation.
"We tend to rush toward the complex when trying to solve a daunting problem, but in this case, simplicity wins. Better buildings, responsible energy use and renewable energy choices are all we need to tackle both energy independence and climate change," said Mazria.