Renewable Energy Requirements for Future Building Codes: Options for Compliance

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As the model energy codes are improved to reach efficiency levels 50 percent greater than current codes, use of on-site renewable energy generation is likely to become a code requirement. This requirement will be needed because traditional mechanisms for code improvement, including envelope, mechanical and lighting, have been pressed to the end of reasonable limits. Research has been conducted to determine the mechanism for implementing this requirement (Kaufman 2011). Kaufmann et al. determined that the most appropriate way to structure an on-site renewable requirement for commercial buildings is to define the requirement in terms of an installed power density per ... continued below

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Dillon, Heather E.; Antonopoulos, Chrissi A.; Solana, Amy E. & Russo, Bryan J. September 30, 2011.

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As the model energy codes are improved to reach efficiency levels 50 percent greater than current codes, use of on-site renewable energy generation is likely to become a code requirement. This requirement will be needed because traditional mechanisms for code improvement, including envelope, mechanical and lighting, have been pressed to the end of reasonable limits. Research has been conducted to determine the mechanism for implementing this requirement (Kaufman 2011). Kaufmann et al. determined that the most appropriate way to structure an on-site renewable requirement for commercial buildings is to define the requirement in terms of an installed power density per unit of roof area. This provides a mechanism that is suitable for the installation of photovoltaic (PV) systems on future buildings to offset electricity and reduce the total building energy load. Kaufmann et al. suggested that an appropriate maximum for the requirement in the commercial sector would be 4 W/ft{sup 2} of roof area or 0.5 W/ft{sup 2} of conditioned floor area. As with all code requirements, there must be an alternative compliance path for buildings that may not reasonably meet the renewables requirement. This might include conditions like shading (which makes rooftop PV arrays less effective), unusual architecture, undesirable roof pitch, unsuitable building orientation, or other issues. In the short term, alternative compliance paths including high performance mechanical equipment, dramatic envelope changes, or controls changes may be feasible. These options may be less expensive than many renewable systems, which will require careful balance of energy measures when setting the code requirement levels. As the stringency of the code continues to increase however, efficiency trade-offs will be maximized, requiring alternative compliance options to be focused solely on renewable electricity trade-offs or equivalent programs. One alternate compliance path includes purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). Each REC represents a specified amount of renewable electricity production and provides an offset of environmental externalities associated with non-renewable electricity production. The purpose of this paper is to explore the possible issues with RECs and comparable alternative compliance options. Existing codes have been examined to determine energy equivalence between the energy generation requirement and the RECs alternative over the life of the building. The price equivalence of the requirement and the alternative are determined to consider the economic drivers for a market decision. This research includes case studies that review how the few existing codes have incorporated RECs and some of the issues inherent with REC markets. Section 1 of the report reviews compliance options including RECs, green energy purchase programs, shared solar agreements and leases, and other options. Section 2 provides detailed case studies on codes that include RECs and community based alternative compliance methods. The methods the existing code requirements structure alternative compliance options like RECs are the focus of the case studies. Section 3 explores the possible structure of the renewable energy generation requirement in the context of energy and price equivalence. The price of RECs have shown high variation by market and over time which makes it critical to for code language to be updated frequently for a renewable energy generation requirement or the requirement will not remain price-equivalent over time. Section 4 of the report provides a maximum case estimate for impact to the PV market and the REC market based on the Kaufmann et al. proposed requirement levels. If all new buildings in the commercial sector complied with the requirement to install rooftop PV arrays, nearly 4,700 MW of solar would be installed in 2012, a major increase from EIA estimates of 640 MW of solar generation capacity installed in 2009. The residential sector could contribute roughly an additional 2,300 MW based on the same code requirement levels of 4 W/ft{sup 2} of roof area. Section 5 of the report provides a basic framework for draft code language recommendations based on the analysis of the alternative compliance levels.

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  • Report No.: PNNL-20727
  • Grant Number: AC05-76RL01830
  • DOI: 10.2172/1048618 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1048618
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc839844

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  • September 30, 2011

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 9:45 a.m.

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  • Dec. 1, 2016, 4:12 p.m.

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Dillon, Heather E.; Antonopoulos, Chrissi A.; Solana, Amy E. & Russo, Bryan J. Renewable Energy Requirements for Future Building Codes: Options for Compliance, report, September 30, 2011; Richland, Washington. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc839844/: accessed May 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.