This post was written by Andrew Mondell, PE, CEM, LEED GA, Business Development Manager – New York/Long Island Area, Northeast Region, Trane Commercial HVAC North America, as part of its membership in NEEP®’s Allies Program.

In response to climate change, robust efforts to decarbonize — reduce GHG emissions released into the atmosphere to address global warming and meet world climate goals — are underway across the globe.

Through the Paris Agreement, for example, the nations of the world have agreed to decarbonize to mitigate climate change. In 2015, 195 countries adopted this first-ever legally binding global climate deal. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting increases in global temperature to within 2°C and pursuing efforts to even limit it to 1.5°C.

These efforts are based on a global carbon budget which is the amount of carbon we are allowed to emit into the atmosphere before irreparable planetary damage occurs. Globally, we have already emitted half of our allowable carbon budget and, at the rate of emission we’re going, we’ll hit our budget cap in the year 2045.

At Trane®, we are committed to supporting our customers in their decarbonization efforts. Our parent company Trane Technologies has committed to helping our customers reduce their carbon emissions by one Gigaton by 2030.

U.S. Efforts Include States, Cities and Utilities

In the United States, in the absence of current formal federal action on climate change, states, cities and utilities are continuing to develop their own strategies to decarbonize. 

For example, America’s Pledge®, an American coalition of states, cities, businesses, and others committed to climate action in support of the Paris Agreement, now represents almost 70 percent of U.S. GDP, 65 percent of U.S. population, and more than 50 percent of U.S. emissions.

Focus on Electrification

As part of these emission reduction efforts, a variety of efforts focus on driving decarbonization through electrification. Electrification – also known as energy conversion – describes the transition from end-use technologies powered by fossil fuels to those powered by electricity. Examples of electrification include transitioning from diesel to electricity powered battery buses, or, in buildings, shifting to air, water or storage source heat pumps and geothermal.

Efforts specifically driving electrification include policy mandates, such as taxes, building codes, and portfolio standards. This is in addition to voluntary programs that can include utility rebates and construction decisions, such as choosing all-electric buildings or moving to building electrification.

This long-term trend toward electrification means that electricity will start to power more of our everyday products across the building, transportation, and industrial sectors.

As GHG reduction efforts and the focus on electrification both continue to grow, building owners, developers, engineers, and contractors will need to understand how to meet the challenges of driving decarbonization through electrification.

Building Industry Focused on Strategic Electrification

The building sector has adopted the term strategic electrification to describe modernizing the built environment so that buildings are powered by electricity drawn from renewable energy sources. This shift to electrification reduces the amount of fossil fuels used to generate heating and cooling at the building level, providing a pathway to reduce GHG emissions.

Take a Holistic Approach to Building Electrification

If you are considering reducing your building’s carbon footprint through electrification, you can help ensure a smooth process by working with an energy service company (ESCO) that offers a full range of solutions, including energy services, equipment supporting renewable energy generation and sustainable energy efficiency.

Make sure that the selected ESCO offers a portfolio of electrification-focused equipment that enables your building to operate as a “system”. They should be ready to holistically approach all building needs such as space heating, process hot water, domestic hot water and other requirements without using fossil fuel-intensive technologies.

An informed strategic electrification process starts with an energy audit that gives you visibility to current baseline operations. An energy audit may help you identify your best path to an electrified and sustainable future. Note that if you haven’t incorporated building automation systems and controls that enable you to track emissions, energy use and overall building performance, it may be a good time to consider these options.

Heat pumps can provide very high incremental return on electrification efforts, making them an ideal first implementation. Heat pumps work by using electricity — increasingly a cleaner solution — to move heat from one part of the building to another or from the ground to where it is needed in the building.

Electric heat pumps typically replace conventional heating equipment such as boilers or furnaces which use fossil fuels to produce heat. Even better, when coupled with energy storage solutions such as thermal or chemical batteries, heat pumps can give building owners and managers flexibility regarding how and when they dispatch their building’s heat energy.

Types of heat pumps to consider, depending upon your current equipment, include:

·        Air source heat pump technology — can cool or heat air or water by rejecting or pulling heat from ambient air and is often found in variable refrigerant flow VRF heat pumps, rooftop heat pumps, and air-cooled heat pump chillers.

·       Water-source heat pump technology can cool or heat air or water by rejecting or pulling heat from a water or a glycol source and is often found in water source heat pumps, centrifugal and screw chillers, and water to water heat pump chillers.

During the summer months, heat pumps also can be used to provide cooling. They can even provide both heating and cooling at the same time if needed.

Continued improvements to heat pump performance and cleaner energy generation have made it possible for heat pumps to provide sole-source electric heating for buildings more reliably and efficiently. And for the first time in the history of the industry, load management technologies are unlocking their demand flexibility capabilities.

For example, VRF heat-recovery systems use air source heat pumps to provide simultaneous heating and cooling and respond to rapid changes in building load during periods of heavy demand. Storage source heat pumps combine the high efficiency of water-cooled chillers and the agility of thermal energy storage to store and recover building’s waste energy.

A heat pump, in this case a heat-recovery chiller, moves or “pumps” the energy from the thermal energy storage tanks to either reject to the atmosphere in the summer or into the building to heat it in the winter.

Incorporating electric solutions makes it possible to shift carbon emissions from buildings to the power plant – which is also becoming cleaner, making it possible to achieve decarbonization goals set by municipal, state and federal leaders. Given the number of U.S. states and cities already committed to climate change, building code changes requiring carbon reduction are either likely forthcoming – or they are already affecting your region.

Now is an ideal time to consider steps toward strategic electrification solutions for your building, including an energy audit, systems upgrade and continuous commissioning.


For more information, visit Trane's electrification hub.


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