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IEA: CO2 from buildings could be cut 25%

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by Staff Writers
Berlin (UPI) May 16, 2011
Greenhouse gas emissions from buildings could be cut by 25 percent using existing technology, the International Energy Agency said Monday.

"Technologies such as solar thermal, heat pumps, thermal energy storage and combined heat and power for buildings have the potential to reduce (carbon dioxide) emissions by up to 2 gigatons by 2050 … and save 710 million tons oil equivalent of energy by 2050," the IEA said in a news release accompanying the report.

Action is needed because buildings account for nearly one-third of global energy consumption and are an equally important source of CO2 emissions, the IEA said.

Much of the energy savings detailed in the report could be achieved rapidly, "both because the required technologies are available today and because heating and cooling equipment is typically replaced between seven and 30 years -- much more rapidly than the buildings themselves, which may last 30 to 100 years or more," the IEA said.

It identified heat pumps, active solar thermal units and combined heat and power, or CHP, and thermal energy storage as the most promising technologies, in part because they're already proven.

The number of heat pumps in the residential sector would grow from the current figure of around 800 million to nearly 3.5 billion by 2050, the IEA predicts. Solar thermal capacity would increase by a factor of more than 25, while capacity of distributed CHP in buildings would be 45 times greater than today's level.

However, the IEA warned that governments aren't doing enough to push energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment. The group called for more money to put into technology research and development, better information for homeowners, greater international cooperation on best policies and incentives so that existing buildings are retrofitted with new technology.

"Governments need to create the economic conditions that will enable heating and cooling technologies to meet environmental criteria at least cost," Bo Diczfalusy, the IEA's sustainable energy policy and technology expert, said in a statement. "The challenge is significant given the very fragmented nature of the buildings sector and the difficulty of ensuring that effective policy reaches all decision makers."

The IEA's new building efficiency report is the latest in the group's series of technology road maps, which aim to guide governments and industry on the actions and milestones needed to achieve the potential for a full range of clean energy technologies.

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