Part 3 of 3 in a series focused on the growing regulatory measures companies must comply with to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improved building efficiency.
Known by many as the “energy capital of the world” because of its oil and gas production, Houston, Texas is now working to maintain that title as the energy landscape changes and the city aims for a low-carbon future.
Already one of the hottest and most humid cities in the U.S., Houston could become even hotter in the next 60 years. A recent University of Maryland study shows that by 2080, Houston’s temperatures could feel closer to the current climate in Cuidad Mante, Mexico, where the average daily temperature is 95°F during its hot season.1,2 Being a coastal city, Houston is also challenged with sea-level rise as well as severe storms and flooding which have struck the region in recent years. These problems highlight the urgency to create and implement effective climate action strategies similar to what New York City and California are enacting to protect their citizens and environments as discussed in parts 1 and 2 of this blog series.
On July 25, 2019, the city of Houston issued a release announcing a draft of its climate action plan (CAP) that calls for increasing the generation of renewable energy, greater investment in “green infrastructure,” and expanding the use of alternative modes of transportation. Citing concerns about the limited federal response to climate change, Houston officials stress that change will require a community-wide effort. This effort is being led by Mayor Sylvester Turner, who is committed to adopting the goals of the landmark Paris climate accord, which includes becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2050. At the announcement event of Houston’s CAP, Turner told attendees, “If we take bold actions to lead our city on a sustainable path, we will leave behind a better Houston for future generations.”3
GHG emissions in Houston higher than elsewhere in the country
Creating a more sustainable Houston will be no small task. According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, it is extremely likely that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities are the dominant cause of the increase in global warming since the mid-20th century.4 Houston has one of the largest per capita GHG emissions in the country. In 2014, Houston residents and businesses generated nearly 35 million tons of greenhouse gases through carbon-fueled buildings, cars, and waste. If nothing is done, this number is expected to rise to at least 45 million by 2050.3
The city’s biggest source of these emissions is commercial and residential buildings, accounting for 49% of the problem, followed closely by transportation at 47%.5 These numbers demonstrate why commercial buildings are being targeted to meet climate action goals.
Sources of GHG Emissions in Houston
A look at Houston’s climate action plan draft, with a focus on building optimization
The city’s new plan is divided into four areas: 1) Transportation, 2) Energy Transition, 3) Building Optimization, and 4) Materials Management. Given that this article’s focus is on the impact of climate mobilization on commercial building owners, we are directing our attention to building optimization and some of the goals and strategies specified in the draft for this particular area.6
> Goal B1: Reduce building energy use and maximize savings
Update energy code and increase compliance by 2025
Develop programs that improve building energy efficiency by 2030 (Actions include developing energy benchmarking and auditing programs)
> Goal B2: Expand investment in energy efficiency
Promote clean energy financing programs by 2025
Expand utility energy efficiency programs by 2025
(Actions include rebate and incentive programs)
According to the city’s website, its full climate action plan is expected to be released by the end of 2019.
Houston’s energy scene: A powerful business case for energy efficiency
Houston’s buildings sector accounts for almost 50% of energy consumption.6 In response, a private sector initiative in Houston is driving investment in energy efficiency. Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Houston is working toward the goal of reducing energy consumption by 30% or more through innovative programs and initiatives.7 The EEB-Houston group includes partners from Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development.
According to EEB-Houston, a modest energy efficiency improvement of 25% would save substantial money for business owners and occupants, and contribute significantly to the spending power of consumers and businesses. EEB-Houston’s website, eebhouston.org, highlights additional benefits the city will enjoy by creating more energy-efficient buildings:8
• A 30% savings in energy spend in the commercial sector would translate into nearly 20,000 jobs for regional energy efficiency contractors, the supply chain, and the service sector over a five-year period.
• The region would gain a competitive edge in attracting and retaining residents, as sustainable cities attract talented workers and their families, especially Millennials.
• An achievable increase in energy efficiency would keep energy demand from exceeding current capacity, a real concern since Houston has a strong economy and continues to expand.
Optimizing HVAC systems to reduce GHG emissions and save energy
Since HVAC systems account for nearly 40% of the energy used in commercial buildings9, HVAC optimization should be a priority for building owners who need to reduce their carbon footprint. Optimizing HVAC systems no longer requires huge capital investments such as hardware upgrades or replacements, complicated installations, or disruptions to business. Today’s cloud-based HVAC software is becoming an increasingly popular option to monitor, analyze, and control systems in real time, all without human intervention.
Using patented algorithms with advanced analytical capabilities, Encycle offers a proven energy-saving solution, Swarm Logic®, which is playing a key role in the carbon emission reduction efforts of its commercial and industrial clients. This unique energy efficiency technology is unlike any other HVAC efficiency solution on the market today. Connecting via the cloud to existing building control systems, connected thermostats, or IoT platforms, Swarm Logic dynamically synchronizes HVAC rooftop units (RTUs), enabling them to operate as an intelligent networked system. This coordinated and closed-loop approach allows each RTU to dynamically adapt its operation to changing cooling requirements. Companies using Swarm Logic routinely reduce HVAC energy costs and consumption by 10%-20% with little or no capital investment.
Ways Swarm Logic® can help building owners achieve CAP goals
Encycle’s Swarm Logic technology typically delivers six- and even seven-figure savings to multi-site customers, with a return on program fees of 2X to 5X starting almost immediately after deployment. In addition, Swarm Logic helps building owners make meaningful progress toward any sustainability goals, and supports compliance with local and regional climate action requirements. Benefits that Swarm Logic customers achieve include:
• Consumption management – Swarm Logic ensures that RTUs operate only as much as needed without impacting occupant comfort, often achieving reductions up to 20%.
• Peak demand management – Swarm Logic automatically balances multiple cooling loads, significantly reducing demand peaks, leading to reductions in peak demand of 10%-20%.
• CO2 emissions reduction – By helping customers reduce their energy consumption, Swarm Logic lowers CO2 and related GHG emissions, which can lower the amount of renewable energy capacity customers need to install and/or procure. Typical Encycle customers achieve a 10%-20% reduction in HVAC-related GHG emissions.
• Intelligent demand response (DR) – Having compatibility with OpenADR and CPower Link automated DR protocols, Swarm Logic simplifies demand response participation, managing peak demand and load scheduling to ensure established agreements or contracts are met without worry or hassle, which enables customers to maximize their DR revenue.
• Advanced analytics and reporting – Swarm Logic has a robust set of analytics and reporting tools, giving transparent feedback with real insights and HVAC visibility into building and RTU operations. Real-time reporting capabilities help establish benchmarks and validate energy savings.
Following the successful implementation of Swarm Logic, customers throughout North America realize significant annual energy savings, reduce their GHG emissions, and enjoy other substantial benefits.
For more information on how Encycle can help you reduce your carbon emissions and energy use, contact us at +1 855-875-4031.
Contributing author: Chris Hensley, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Encycle Corporation
1 Appalacian Laboratory. “Climate of North American Cities Will Shift Hundreds of Miles in One Generation.” University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, 12 Feb. 2019, www.umces.edu/news/climate-north-american-cities-will-shift-hundreds-miles-one-generation%20.
2 “Average Weather in Ciudad Mante, Mexico, Year Round.” Weatherspark.com, weatherspark.com/y/7028/Average-Weather-in-Ciudad-Mante-Mexico-Year-Round.
3 “Houston Unveils First Draft of City Climate Action Plan.” City of Houston Office of Sustainability, City of Houston, 25 July 2019, www.greenhoustontx.gov/20190725.html.
4 “Executive Summary.” Climate Science Special Report, U.S. Global Change Research Program, science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/executive-summary/.
5 “Climate Action Plan.” City of Houston Office of Sustainability, City of Houston, www.greenhoustontx.gov/climateactionplan/index.html.
6 “Houston Climate Action Plan DRAFT Outline of Recommendations for Public Comment.” City of Houston, 29 July 2019.
7 “Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Houston.” HARCresearch.org, Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), 12 Jan. 2017, www.harcresearch.org/work/Energy_Efficiency_in_Buildings_Houston.
8 “Energy Efficiency in Buildings Houston.” Energy Efficiency in Buildings Houston, EEB-Houston, eebhouston.org/.
9 Brasington, Louis. “Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems, the Next Building Load to Optimize.” Cleantech Group, Cleantech Group, 8 July 2019, www.cleantech.com/heating-ventilation-and-air-conditioning-hvac-systems-the-next-building-load-to-optimize/.