What Can We Learn from Abroad About Improving Energy Performance of Buildings?
More than a third of primary energy use in developed countries is used to heat, cool, and light buildings. Thus, commercial real estate provides opportunities to achieve substantial potentially low-cost improvements in energy efficiency. In recent years, the European Union (EU) and its member nations and states in the Australian Commonwealth have pioneered policies to promote energy efficiency in buildings and to rectify behaviors that make energy efficiency difficult to achieve. A new RAND study examines how these policies have worked and draws implications for the potential design of similar U.S. public policies.
The study examines policy tools to improve building efficiency, including building codes, energy efficiency ratings, the role of public buildings, the training and certification of experts, and the issuance of tradable "white certificates"—tradable rights based on improving the energy efficiency of buildings. The study found that the experiences of Europe and Australia suggest that effective policies to promote energy efficiency in buildings could include information disclosure, building codes, and ratings. However, the rollout of such policies and their consistent implementation pose special challenges.
In terms of the implications for U.S. policymakers, the study concludes that building-materials manufacturers will be able to better standardize their products if there is regional consistency in energy efficiency requirements for building codes; that energy performance certificates should be understandable and meaningful enough to affect market behavior; that widespread energy efficiency gains will need to involve retrofitting and making operational improvements to existing buildings, as well as codes for new buildings; that public buildings should continue to be a test bed for new energy-saving ideas and should promote awareness of building energy-performance levels; and that building energy-efficiency programs could play roles in a cap-and-trade program for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.
Assessing the Viability of Alternative Jet Fuels in the Short-Term
From 2003 through mid-2008, the rise in world oil prices precipitated a corresponding rise in the price of jet fuel. Higher prices for jet fuel contributed to the bankruptcy of several airlines and was one factor motivating other airlines to merge. All economic sectors, including aviation, are also experiencing growing pressure to reduce their greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. In addition, emissions from aviation also degrade air quality near airports. But the commercial aviation sector has few alternative-energy options to petroleum-based fuels.
A joint study by RAND and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) assessed alternative jet fuels that could be available commercially in the next decade using primarily North American resources.
The study found that three alternative fuels not derived from conventional petroleum may be available in commercial quantities—several tens of thousands of barrels per day—during the next decade: (1) Jet A derived from Canadian oil sands and Venezuela's very heavy oils (VHOs); (2) Fischer-Tropsch (FT) jet fuel produced from coal, a combination of coal and biomass, or natural gas; and (3) hydroprocessed renewable jet (HRJ) fuel produced by hydroprocessing renewable oils. All these fuels are compatible with the current infrastructure or easily can be made compatible by using additives.
The study offers several recommendations based on these findings. These include ensuring that measures designed to lower GHG emissions are broad and place a price on GHG emissions—allowing economically efficient choices to be made across many sectors—and that measures designed to promote alternative-fuel use in aviation consider the potentially large GHG releases associated with land-use changes required for cultivating crops for producing biomass or renewable oils. Additionally, the study recommends considering the adoption of a reduced-sulfur standard or a ULS jet fuel to improve air quality and supporting long-term fundamental research on creating alternative middle-distillate fuels for use in ground transportation and aviation.
Charles P. Ries
Ambassador Ries joined RAND as a senior fellow in February 2009, having served as Coordinator for Economic Transition at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and in numerous other diplomatic foreign assignments. At State Department headquarters, Mr. Ries worked on international energy and G-7/G-8 Summits, among other issues. Ambassador Ries is the recipient of the State Department's "Cordell Hull" Award for Senior Economic Officers, "Rockwell Schnabel" Award for Contributions to U.S.-EU Relations, the Distinguished Honor Award, Presidential Meritorious Service Award, and several Superior Honor Awards. For his service in Iraq he was also awarded the Department of Army's Outstanding Civil Service Medal. Mr. Ries holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from the Johns Hopkins University.
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Research on Global and Local Water Issues
Water managers have to deal both with growing demands for water in their regions and with the impacts that global climate change will have on the end-users—businesses and homeowners—who are trying to manage their own water-efficiency issues. For RAND research on both global and local water issues, see our previous Energy and Environment Newsletter.
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