DOE's $65 Million Opportunity to Improve Building Efficiency


Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette Unveils FOA while Touring EPRI Smart Home in Charlotte

U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette has announced a $65 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding opportunity for technologies that allow energy-efficient buildings to interact with one another and the electric grid, to reduce emissions and improve grid flexibility.

"I thank EPRI for hosting this important discussion today. As our nation's energy system continues to undergo dramatic transformations, there is a growing need for solutions that integrate and optimize all of our energy resources on the grid to provide Americans with the most reliable and affordable electricity possible," Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said. "With today's announcement, DOE will broaden its capability to evaluate and demonstrate the growing flexibility of one such solution—smart, grid-interactive, efficient buildings—to best serve the needs of building occupants and the grid while reducing energy consumption overall."

In March, DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy sought input from organizations that could "demonstrate and evaluate the capacity of energy-efficient buildings to interact with one another and the grid to provide greater degrees of demand flexibility at scale."

EPRI hosted Brouillette on Tuesday to highlight residential building efficiency technologies that reduce carbon emissions from the electric sector and increase grid resilience.

The visit featured a private tour of a new smart home in Charlotte built by Meritage Homes, which is working with EPRI to understand and demonstrate how to build energy efficient homes that are also grid friendly. Duke Energy collaborated with EPRI on the study to understand energy use patterns in zero ready and solar homes.

During the event, EPRI Board member and Duke Energy's executive vice president for Energy Solutions, Doug Esamann, said, "Duke Energy strongly supports working with industry partners and creating options for our customers. Our energy efficiency and renewable energy programs have been popular as customers seek to be more sustainable in all aspects of their lives."

EPRI President Arshad Mansoor said:

"This is an important step toward decarbonization which falls squarely within EPRI's public benefit mission as more of the economy relies on the electric sector to grow and thrive.

"Right now, one third of our carbon emissions comes from the electric power industry. Another third comes from buildings, and the final third comes from transportation. By improving the efficiency of buildings, especially in the residential sector, we're reducing emissions from two out of three sectors.

"In 2019, energy use in buildings was 20.9 quadrillion Btus. Energy use in residential buildings is a little more than half that. Since 1973, natural gas use in buildings has marginally declined from 5.26 to 5.18 quadrillion Btus, while electricity use has grown from 1.84 to 4.90 quadrillion Btus.

"This means more of our economy is relying on electricity, which must be generated with cleaner forms of energy. The goal is decarbonization. But to increase the amount of clean energy on the grid, we have to improve grid resilience, which requires new technology that allows utilities to better manage resources, but also technology that creates a more interactive grid for consumers.

"About 51 percent of total energy use in buildings is for heating and cooling. As an industry, we must look at improving the efficiency of air conditioning and space heating, which is what we did in the smart home we're showing the Secretary today.

"The genesis of this project with Meritage Homes and Duke Energy was 2017 when EPRI researchers decided to examine if thermal storage could be used in buildings as a lower cost means of providing grid stability compared to battery storage.

"Over the course of three years, EPRI discovered a number of technologies that could help reduce energy use in the residential market, technologies you'll see in the model home. Some of the unique technologies evaluated over this period include Phase Change Materials in the building envelope, advanced construction technologies with high thermal mass walls, and high efficiency variable capacity heat pump systems, all of which have the potential to provide grid flexibility while reducing energy burden.  

"The home features battery storage, thermal storage, solar heat pumps, advanced appliances, better insulation and air filtration systems among other things.

"Meritage Homes built its first zero net energy home in Arizona in 2010. Efficiency is top of mind for many new homeowners to address energy costs. Many states are increasingly adopting efficiency requirements, including California which has just required all new homes to be net zero including a renewable energy component."

"Meritage Homes builds premium and affordable quality entry-level and first move-up homes – 100% of which are energy-efficient, safer, and healthier than traditional homes. We are the industry leader in energy-efficient homebuilding and our homes all include a standard package of features to reduce energy consumption," said Steve Hilton, Chairman and CEO of Meritage Homes Corporation. "By collaborating with partners like the Department of Energy, EPRI, and utilities like Duke Energy, we look to integrate more advanced efficiency features and technology into the design and construction of our homes."

For more information, check out The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc.