How Do We Decarbonize Buildings?

How Do We Decarbonize Buildings?

Buildings account for 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Around 11% of these emissions are from materials and construction, and around 28% can be attributed to day-to-day operations such as using electricity or burning natural gas for heating and cooking. Reducing building emissions is an essential step towards achieving our climate goals and creating more sustainable communities.

What does decarbonizing buildings mean?

Decarbonizing buildings means eliminating the emissions associated with existing buildings and new construction. While updated building codes and construction practices reduce the carbon intensity of new buildings, we can also significantly reduce the emissions associated with existing buildings. In this blog, we focus on opportunities to decarbonize the existing infrastructure with renewable energy, electrification, and energy efficiency measures.

Renewable Energy

Electricity production is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. with around 62% of electricity generated from fossil fuels. Shifting to carbon-free electricity is one of the most powerful and seamless ways to reduce day-to-day emissions from existing buildings.

Community Choice Aggregators like MCE help put more renewable energy on the grid by buying and building clean energy sources on behalf of local homes and businesses. This model allows for reductions in electricity-related emissions in buildings without on-site generation or solar panels.

Homes and businesses can also produce renewable energy on-site where it’s used instead of purchasing it through the power grid. On-site generation typically consists of solar panels but can also be small-scale wind, geothermal, biomass, or hydropower projects.


As the power mix on our electric grid becomes cleaner, using all-electric appliances can help our homes and businesses become decarbonized.

Many appliances depend on fossil fuels, including gas-powered stoves and ovens, natural gas heaters and water heaters, and traditional clothes dryers. Electrification is the process of replacing these gas technologies with more efficient electric ones. For example, switching to electric heat pumps and heat pump water heaters.

Industrial properties can electrify machinery and the heating and cooling of buildings. Almost 50% of the fuel that industrial companies use for energy can be electrified with existing technology.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency means using less energy to achieve the same outcome. Improving efficiency cuts down on unnecessary energy use in buildings, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and helps to lower energy bills. Energy efficiency also speeds up the transition to renewable energy. With less energy demand, we can draw a higher percentage of our energy from renewable sources and rely less on polluting fossil fuel plants.

Energy efficiency improvements include upgrading old appliances to more efficient electric models, switching to LED light bulbs, and updating water-heating and air-conditioning systems. Efficiency upgrades also include installing more insulation and sealing windows and doors to improve the efficiency of heating and cooling. Professional energy assessments to identify specific areas for efficiency improvements are a helpful step toward decarbonizing existing homes and businesses.

How MCE Can Support Your Building Decarbonization Efforts

MCE offers an option to upgrade to 100% renewable energy service to help customers reduce emissions from their homes and businesses. Additionally, the following programs offer electrification and energy efficiency upgrades to qualifying residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural properties in our service area.

  • Homes: MCE’s Home Energy Savings Program provides qualifying single-family homeowners and renters with free home energy upgrades, free energy-saving gift boxes, and virtual home energy assessments.
  • Multifamily Properties: MCE’s Multifamily Energy Savings Program offers rebates for energy efficiency, electrification, and health, safety, and comfort upgrades for multifamily properties.
  • Commercial Properties: MCE’s Commercial Energy Efficiency Program helps commercial properties lower their energy bills, reduce maintenance costs, and improve productivity. Eligible energy efficiency projects cover technologies such as LED lighting, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning, refrigeration, and controls.
  • Agricultural and Industrial Properties: MCE’s Agricultural and Industrial Resource (AIR) Program helps local agricultural and industrial customers reduce energy consumption and costs while supporting core business objectives, including improvements in facility operations, reliability, and efficiency.

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