Retrofits Can Cut Carbon Emissions

Schneider Electric

This year has been a challenging year for many with sales not meeting expectations, especially relating to new construction … and the lack of continually price increases makes comparisons challenging.

A key to driving growth is bringing ideas to the marketplace.

Yes you can seek to win share by outserving your competitors but there is a limit to what they’ll give unless competition “messes up.” An important part to business development is idea sharing. And an element of idea sharing is helping identify your customer’s customers issues.

Consider, if you know the type of business that your contractors pursue (even if only selected ones) and you could give your contractor an idea to take to his customer (or maybe they’ll let you present the idea), opportunities may be created.

Three areas that are “hot” for many are energy efficiency, renewables / clean energy and an emerging issue … decarbonization.

Here’s an interesting article that was on UtilityDive titled “Retrofits can cut office building emissions by up to 70%: Schneider Electric” relating to the HVACR industry and one that you may want to consider if you serve the commercial market.

“Dive Brief:

  • Retrofitting office buildings with its digitized building and power-management systems, and replacing fossil fuel heating sources with electric and renewable energy, can slash carbon emissions by up to 70%, according to new research from Schneider Electric.
  • Using its digital building and power management tools in commercial office buildings alone can reduce operational carbon emissions by up to 42%, the company reports. Replacing fossil fuel-based heating technologies with electric alternatives and installing renewables-powered microgrids can cut up to an additional 28%, the findings revealed.
  • “Tackling operational emissions is the number-one lever to decarbonize existing buildings at scale and achieve net-zero emissions targets by 2050,” said Mike Kazmierczak, vice president of Schneider Electric’s digital energy decarbonization office.
Dive Insight:

Since about half of today’s buildings are likely to still be in use in 2050, “the sector must urgently reduce operational carbon emissions, by making buildings more energy efficient,” Schneider Electric says. The initial phase of its research, which it conducted with global design firm WSP, modeled the energy performance and carbon emissions of a 12-story office building employing a traditional HVAC system. The research, which looked at four U.S. climate zones, determined that the energy consumption profile of the baseline archetype matched the expectations for a normative U.S. office building.

A “digital-first approach” to retrofits is the most effective decarbonization strategy because it applies to all building types and climates and yields lower initial carbon footprint during the retrofitting process, the company said in a news release.

Schneider Electric’s research points to two primary pathways for office buildings to reduce carbon emissions: increase the building’s energy efficiency to reduce demand and electrify the building to meet demand with renewable energy sources.

Energy efficiency can be increased through four approaches, it says: building envelope upgrades to improve thermal performance, upgraded equipment such as light sensors and power factor correction transformers, digital optimization with modern building management systems controlling HVAC systems that are compliant with ASHRAE Guideline 36, and controls optimization, the company said in one of the whitepapers it released about the research. Digital optimization could include “potential advanced enhancements” to BMS such as AI optimization and zone-level management through Internet of Things sensor networks. AI-enhanced controls and power factor correction transformers can cut electricity use by as much as 29% and 19.7%, respectively, the research suggests.

Decarbonization is an added pressure on facilities managers who are already grappling with constrained capital access. Kazmierczak, whose team led the research within Schneider Electric’s digital energy division, said in an interview that “facilities managers play a huge role in this dilemma that we have” around preconceived notions of decarbonization as “a costly, disruptive and time-consuming process.”

“Decarbonization is a journey. It’s not one thing you start and finish. What we found in our research is that the fastest way is digital tech — tech tied to automation — with [a return on investment] of less than three years,” Kazmierczak said. “We think this is a really good starting point to look at before the next step of electrification and renewables. And the third part is more of a deep renovation or deep retrofit.”

Kazmierczak pointed to the possibility of an ROI of eight to 15 years for renewables and aspects of electrification and an ROI of more than 25 years during the retrofit stage. “There’s an opportunity to start with digitization, [later] adding renewables and electrification,” he explained. “The reason to go into a deep renovation is to get to a completion of net-zero [goals]. It depends on the asset itself. If it’s a long-term asset, you may want to go all the way through deep renovation.”

A separate whitepaper Schneider Electric released on the research focused on electrification. It identifies four approaches to that process: retrofitting building systems from fossil fuels to electric, generating solar power onsite plus adding battery energy storage, load-shifting with a grid-responsive microgrid, and power monitoring. Installing all-electric building systems such as heat pumps can raise electrical demand from the utility and is more complex than just replacing gas-powered HVAC and hot water systems, the company notes. Digital upgrades to existing HVAC systems such as occupancy-based zone controls and modern BMS “can provide the needed headspace” for full electric conversion with minimal disruption to building operations, the paper states.

“We know that we need to move three times faster,” Kazmierczak told Facilities Dive. “So, we’re looking at the impact of the built environment and, wherever we can, helping get our built environment to the targets we have by 2030.”

Something that HVACR distributors should explore.

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