Page 278 Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States
standards for government buildings; Section VI, volun-
tary certication systems pursuant to which buildings are
certied as meeting specied standards; Section VII, fuel
switching from fossil fuels to elect ricity; and Section VIII,
nancing mechanisms that allow building owners to bor-
row funds to retrot their buildings. A ll of these strategies
have potential, and can be used together productively.
Most of the measures described above aim at the e-
cient use of energy. Cutting down on the enormous quan-
tities of electricity used in buildings is essential for two
reasons. First, an appreciable amount of our electricity
supply in 2050, just as today, probably will not be carbon
neutral even though the DDPP reports call for decarbon-
izing electricity.7 us, reduced ele ctricit y consumpt ion
in buildings will reduce carbon emissions associated with
electricity generation. Second, reduced building-related
consumption will help the electrical utility industry to
transform to zero-emission and low-emission production
by cutting overall demand (or at least help counteract the
increased demand from electric ation of vehicles and of
buildings). Energy eciency might be achieved through
energy audit programs, with building owners incentiv-
ized by market considerations to invest in energy eciency
improvements to their properties. Mandatory retrotting
laws are more direct, and probably should be used for at
least some types of existing buildings.
e single most important pathway to deep decarbon-
ization is fuel switching from fossil fuels to electricity gen-
erated with no CO2 or very low CO2 emissions. e DDPP
policy report emphasizes that “[e]nergy policy for build-
ings and appliances must shif t focus to carbon emissions
rather primary energy u se, and from traditional energy
eciency to fuel switching.”8 It is not possible to achieve
the DDPP’s objectives for the building sectors without
electrifyi ng a large majority of the country’s existing build-
ings. is means replacing spac e heating and water heating
systems that consume fossil f uels on-site (mainly natural
gas, but also heating oil and propane) with all-electric sys-
tems. Mandatory fuel switching, at least for many types
of buildings, is necessary. As an alternative, incentive pro-
grams might work in principle, but present market condi-
tions for the natural gas industry make it highly unlikely
that incentive progra ms would induce enough bu ilding
owners to convert from natural gas to electricity.
Existing buildings can also be ret rotted to generate
their own electricity, especially with rooftop solar pho-
7. See DDPP T R, supra note 2, at 35-37.
8. J H. W ., P D D
U S, U.S. 2050 R, V 2: P I
D D U S 15 (Deep Decarbonization
Pathways Project & Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc., 2015), avail-
able at http://usddpp.org/downloads/2015-report-on-policy-implications.
pdf [hereinafter DDPP P R].
tovoltaic cells. is kind of distributed generation is dis-
cussed in Chapter 19 (Distributed Renewable Energy).
II. Existing Buildings and GHG Emissions
A. Contribution of Buildings to Overall GHG
Buildings have always constituted the major ingredient
of our “built environment,” which consists of human-
made physical structures and physical infrastructure in
all places—urban, suburban, and rural.9 Buildings obvi-
ously have immense value, but they also have an enormous
impact on our environment. e construction of buildings,
and their ongoing maintenance and use, devour massive
quantities of raw materials.10 Buildings cover large areas of
natural and open lands. e y account for approximately
half of U.S. energy consumption and 75% of electricity
consumpt ion.11 Buildings also devour large shares of natu-
ral gas and water supplies.12
Buildings are a prime contributor to GHG emissions,
a concern of heightened importance in an era of global
climate change. According to the Buildings Energ y Data
Book published by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE),
buildings are presently the biggest c ontributor to U.S. CO2
emissions. ey directly or indirect ly emit 40% of the
na ti on’s CO 2 emissions, an increase f rom 33% in 1980.13
Most of the emissions stem from building-related electric-
ity consumption.14 DOE projects the percentage to fal l to
38% in 2020 and to rise to 41% in 2030 and 2035.15
e United States has approximately 135 million dwell-
ing un its,16 housing a population of more than 313 mil-
lion people.17 Most of the units— almost 84 million—are
9. See R P. L, T B E P H 5
(2012) (“built environment itself consists of all the many features that have
been constructed and modied by humanity [including] the construction
of homes [and] the structure of neighborhoods and metropolitan areas”).
10. Globally, buildings use 40% of raw materials. U.S. G B
C, G B F 2, https://www.usgbc.org/sites/default/
11. Architecture 2030, supra note 1. Building operations consume 41.7%, and
building construction and materials make up 5.9%. Id. Slightly lower per-
centages are reported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Buildings
account for 72.9% of the electricity and 41.1% of the total primary energy
consumed in the United States, a number that has risen from 33.7% in 1980.
U.S. D E, supra note 1, at 1-1.
12. Buildings use about 21% of the gas and 10% of the water consumed in the
United States. U.S. D E, supra note 1, at 1-1, 8-1.
13. Id. at xx, 1-19, tbl. 1.4.1. is percentage does not include emissions of
buildings-related energy consumption in the industrial sector. Id. at 1-19.
14. Id. at 1-19.
16. e Census Bureau estimates 134,789,944 as of July 1, 2015. U.S. Cen-
sus Bureau American FactFinder, Annual Estimates of Housing Units for
the United States, 2015 Population Estimates, https://factnder.census.
PEPANNHU&prodType=table (last updated May 2016). is is an increase
of more than three million units from July 1, 2010. Id.
17. Id.; U.S. Census Bureau American FactFinder, Monthly Population Esti-
mates for the United States, 2015 Population Estimates, https://factnder.