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DOE's National Blueprint for the Buildings Sector

Calico Energy’s CEO, Colleen Morris, was in D.C. at the 2024 Better Buildings Summit when the DOE announced their latest report Decarbonizing the U.S. Economy by 2050: A National Blueprint for the Buildings Sector. This blueprint is a strategic plan for building decarbonization, focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the residential and commercial building sector.  

Blueprints and roadmaps such as this serve as guides for policymakers, stakeholders, and industry professionals. They outline specific actions, targets, and timelines, adding immense value to the industry. By aligning efforts, collaborators can best prioritize investments to maximize the impact of the decarbonization initiatives. The key directions, or strategies, called out in this roadmap include:  

  • Increase Building Energy Efficiency 
  • Accelerate On-site Emissions Reductions 
  • Transform the Grid Edge 
  • Minimize Embodied Life Cycle Emissions

Individually, each of the key elements in this blueprint are valuable levers for the industry. Catalyzed collectively, they are necessary to reach our decarbonization goals.  

“Our current biggest challenge towards building decarbonization is market transformation more than technology; “reaching for grid edge value and functionality is the north star that will pull it all together.” 

– Colleen Morris, Calico Energy CEO

At Calico, we are focused on whole-building level data from utilities. This lens contributes another key aspect of the value in roadmaps and plans: effective monitoring and evaluation of progress. Whole-building data is useful and necessary for benchmarking, but it also allows us to track the implementation of decarbonization strategies and measure impact. Our view of buildings enables us to see beyond what currently exists in the market and imagine a future where buildings are not something to decarbonize, but also grid-enabled resources.  

A building is more than just its emissions and consumption. It is a collection of multiple loads, DERs, and materials, as well as the patterns, behaviors, and performances of each. When decarbonization efforts focus on each of these too singularly, we miss the true potential value of buildings as resources. As Calico’s CEO, Colleen Morris, says “our current biggest challenge towards building decarbonization is market transformation more than technology”; “reaching for grid edge value and functionality is the north star that will pull it all together.” The full concept of buildings is the key to both.   

Fully unlocking the grid edge value will require a wholistic view of buildings that go beyond a focus on their isolated parts. The best kind of grid interactive building to call on is one that has flexible loads, efficiency, generation resources, and resilient materials. This comes from implementation of the other strategies in the decarbonization blueprint. When we pay attention to the materials and equipment in a building, not only do we reduce embedded emissions, but we have better efficiency. When we strive to increase the efficiency of a building and integrate DERs, we accelerate the on-site emissions reduction. And when we do this together, we have better performing and more valuable grid interactive buildings.  

The publication of the Decarbonizing the U.S. Economy by 2050 blueprint is valuable in aligning and directing the efforts of a much-needed collaborative industry. It lays the foundation for the value buildings provide towards national decarbonization. This will take work on many fronts which in the end must all come together to be aligned on the same problem: Buildings. 


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