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How will United States commercial building energy use be impacted by IPCC climate scenarios?...

by Brett C Bass, Joshua R New
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Climate change and anthropogenically-forced shift of weather in the future will impact energy use and resilience of both the built environment and the electric grid. The aim of this analysis is to understand how future climate scenarios will impact electricity and natural gas use of commercial buildings in the United States. This study analyzes this impact for 2030, 2045, and 2100 using Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) scenarios defined in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report 5. The large, gridded simulation of meteorological variables for RCPs 2.6, 4.5, 6.0, and 8.5 are selected and downscaled to make available hourly Future Meteorological Year (FMY) weather files for use and improvement in subsequent studies. High performance computing resources use these FMYs to simulate commercial prototype buildings in every American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) climate zone of the United States (US), and results are scaled to nation-wide energy use using conditioned floor area multipliers. The analysis is conducted without speculating the physical and performance traits of future buildings or the grid characteristics.

This analysis quantifies the impact of climate change on source electrical and natural gas usage for commercial buildings in the United States over the next 80 years. If US commercial floorspace remained constant, total energy use by 2100 is predicted between an 1.75% decrease under the greatest emission scenario (8.5) and a 1.76% increase under the lowest emission scenario (2.6). When adjusted for anticipated urban growth by 2100, the predicted range is 65% increase (8.5) and 71% increase (2.6). Under a global temperature rise climate scenario, the warmest US climate zones will see a large increases in electricity use derived from space cooling while the coldest US climate zones will see significant decreases in natural gas use caused by the decrease in heating necessary. While climate change may ultimately require adaptations of the built environment to withstand its effects and because the United States is a country that requires more heating than cooling, from a building energy perspective, climate change (average temperature rise) is a net energy saver for the United States.