Equitable Commercial Building Decarbonization
Preproposal Solicitation Scope of Work for:
Estimating costs, benefits and strategies for equitable electrification of high priority commercial buildings
Building decarbonization is critical for California to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045; in particular, building electrification combined with renewable energy is one building decarbonization strategy that can eliminate direct emissions from stationary combustion. Equitable electrification of commercial buildings is especially challenging due to the complexity of building functions and natural gas end use in commercial buildings, affordability of initial and ongoing costs and other factors. The goal of equitable electrification is to distribute the benefits and costs of electrification equitably across society. To fill the knowledge gaps in commercial building electrification, a systematic, in-depth analysis is needed on prioritization, feasibility, costs and benefits of electrification for existing buildings such as restaurants, hospitals, schools, offices and hotels. Specifically, this study will (1) identify the high priority commercial building subsectors for electrification based on feasibility and the combination of air quality, energy, health benefits, and equity impacts in impacted communities, (2) analyze the impacts of natural gas combustion in high priority commercial building subsectors on energy, air quality, health risks, equity and climate change, (3) assess the costs, benefits,the equity implications and enabling and limiting factors of their electrification, and (4) provide policy recommendations to enhance equitable electrification for these subsectors. The information from this study can be used to inform CARB’s decarbonization policies and efforts.
California’s homes and commercial buildings account for 55% of the state’s natural gas consumption, and on-site natural gas combustion in residential and commercial buildings contributes to about 10% of statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In addition, natural gas combustion emits criteria and toxic air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), fine particles (PM2.5), and formaldehyde; many of these air pollutants have been linked with health risks such as respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Substituting energy efficient electric appliances for gas appliances and equipment in buildings can offer energy savings, GHG reductions, and air quality and health co-benefits. Several studies have indicated that accelerated building electrification in the near-term is needed and is one of the most cost-effective strategies to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 for California.
In 2020, an average of 1,614 commercial buildings are added each year. While electrification in new construction is an essential component for decarbonizing building sectors, action in existing buildings is also necessary to achieve California’s mid-century climate goal. The large scale of existing commercial buildings (7,392 million square feet of commercial space, that accounts for annual electricity consumption of 105,174 GWh and annual gas consumption of 2,130 MM therm) indicates a great potential for emission reductions. Many impacted communities are in urban areas with high density of existing commercial buildings; emissions from natural gas combustion in existing commercial buildings add to the air quality and health risk burden from traffic and industrial emissions in these communities. Therefore, electrification of existing commercial buildings is even more critical to impacted communities.
However, electrification of existing buildings also faces more challenges than new construction, such as access to buildings while occupied, constrained space for new equipment in existing buildings, cost related to equipment replacement and structure renovation, and awareness and willingness of building owners. In some instances, electrifying multi-unit buildings might involve a whole new system configuration, such as changing from central boiler to split heat pumps. Several initiatives, research and incentive programs are underway to accelerate building electrification in existing buildings at different levels of authorities, including state energy and planning agencies, publicly owned utilities, and air pollution control and quality management districts. CARB is analyzing carbon neutral pathways for the mid-century climate goal, which include accelerating building electrification. CARB’s Office of Community Air Protection is developing resources to encourage electrified end uses in existing buildings through its appliance clearinghouse and consumer education programs.
Several studies have been conducted to estimate the costs and benefits of electrifying residential buildings. California studies that examine the link between natural gas combustion in homes and higher health risks in low-income communities such childhood asthma are also underway to provide additional evidences of health benefits of building electrification. However, moredetailed analysis is required for commercial buildings, since there is a wide diversity of types of businesses in commercial buildings, and they use different types of natural gas appliances at various sizes. Information regarding natural gas end use mix in commercial buildings and emissions from these natural gas appliances are not available. While air quality and health impacts associated with use of gas appliances has been studied, less information is available on commercial buildings than other uses. Data are needed to understand the best strategies to achieve commercial building electrification, especially in impacted communities, assess the efficacy of these strategies to meet the State’s climate goal and evaluate the co-benefits including health.A systematic, in-depth analysis on prioritization, feasibility, costs and benefits of existing commercial building electrification, with a focus on highly impacted areas, is needed to accelerate equitable electrification in CA.
III. Scope of Work
Task 1. Kick-off Meeting.
At the beginning of the project, a kick-off meeting will be held with CARB staff to discuss the details of the project.
Task 2. Literature Review
The researchers will review existing information, including but not limited to peer-review articles, statewide surveys (e.g., Commercial End Use Survey or Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey), and technical reports, and synthesize a thorough literature review of current knowledge about natural gas use and impacts (such as impacts on air quality, health burdens, health risk disparities in impacted communities), electrification potential, progress, costs, and benefits of existing commercial buildings.
Task 3. Final Detailed Study Plan.
A final detailed study plan will be submitted to the CARB staff. The study plan will describe the knowledge gaps on characterization of natural gas combustion in existing commercial buildings and specify detailed methods and steps to fill such gaps. The researchers will describe any existing data sources to be leveraged or new data to be generated, the methods for data compilation and analysis, a QA/QC plan to assure the quality of the data, and a community involvement plan.
Task 4. Advisory Group
In consultation with CARB staff, the researchers will assemble a study advisory group to inform study design, data collection and analysis, community involvement and review of draft final report. The potential candidates for the advisory group include agencies, air districts, utilities, housing professionals, equity advocates, program specialists, and other relevant stakeholders.
Task 5. Prioritization of Commercial Building Subsectors for Electrification
Through literature review, expert and community interviews, focus group discussions, building tours, and survey, the research team will provide a list of commercial building subsectors that will be prioritized for electrification based on the feasibility (e.g., technology availability, operation needs, and costs) and the combination of air quality, energy, health benefits, and equity. Focus will be put on those difficult to electrify (e.g., restaurants) or those with large overlapping benefits (e.g., schools and hospitals) and in under-resourced community areas. A report documenting the rationales for the selection and the list of priority subsectors will be submitted to CARB staff for final approval.
Task 6. Natural Gas Appliance Mix and Impact Analysis
For the identified high priority subsectors, the researchers will characterize the natural gas end use mix (e.g., the appliance models and on-site operation) in these subsectors and analyze the impacts of natural gas combustion in these buildings on energy, indoor and outdoor air quality, health risks, equity and climate change. The researchers can synthesize existing program and customer data, and/or collect new data through field survey, on-site monitoring, and modeling simulation. Key information to be collected will include the sizes and operation of the buildings, the types of businesses, the specifics of natural gas end use, the consumption of natural gas, the emissions to indoor and outdoor air, the potential burden to public health and environmental equity. The data collection, to the maximum extent feasibility, will be done across different dimensions including end use, geography, building types, and demographic characteristics (e.g., race, ethnicity, income, education, and employment). The researchers will aggregate the data to different subsectors, different geographic areas and statewide to estimate the possible contribution of natural gas emission from these subsectors to indoor and outdoor air pollution, GHG emissions, public health and equity.
Task 7. Feasibility of Electrification
The researchers will analyze the feasibility of electrifying these commercial building subsectors, and estimate electrification costs, benefits, and enabling and limiting factors including factors specific to under-resourced communities. The analysis will be based on different building subsectors, different geographic locations covering highly impacted areas in terms of air quality and health burden,and integrate considerations of infrastructure enabling/hindering conditions (such as transformer/distribution system upgrades, decommissioning existing gas infrastructure, etc.) A survey of building professionals and facility owners and/or operators on the challenges of electrifying these commercial building sectors will also be included.
Task 8. Policy Gaps and Recommendations
The researcher will synthesize current policy strategies, research, planning and incentive programs targeting these building subsectors, describe the gap between existing efforts on these subsectors and the state’s long-term goals, and provide recommendations for complementary regulatory, incentives or other actions to enhance equitable electrification.
Task 9. Progress Reports and Draft Final Report.
Quarterly progress reports will be prepared and delivered to CARB every three months with each invoice, containing brief narrative summaries of achievements, the state of progress relative to the plans, and any significant problems encountered along with a brief description of the solutions. A draft final report describing all project methods and results and following CARB’s final report guidelines will be submitted to CARB for review six months before the end date of the project.
Task 10. Final Report and Presentation.
The revised final report that addresses all comments from CARB’s Research Screening Committee and staff will be prepared and submitted to CARB in both print and electronic versions as specified in the contract. A technical seminar will be presented by the principal investigator to the CARB staff and the public. An electronic copy of all experimental data generated by this study also will be provided to CARB.
The contractor will deliver to CARB the following:
At Pre-Proposal Stage
- Provide a cultural competency statement in the pre-proposal
At Beginning of Contract
- All researchers must undergo cultural competency training (examples include implicit bias training, racial equity training, etc.). Trainings should be completed or scheduled within 30 days of contract execution
- Work with CARB staff at the beginning of the project to create a 1-page plain-language outreach deliverable for public describing the project’s goals, process, and planned deliverables (available in multiple languages, template will be provided)
During Active Contract Period
- Quarterly Progress Reports and conference calls; The progress reports will include plain-language summaries that can be posted publicly. A progress report template will be provided
- Consultation calls with CARB and key stakeholders
Prior to Contract Close
- All data, analyses and analytical tools generated through the course of this project
- Draft final report
- Include a plain language summary in draft final report
- Include an equity implications section in draft final report
- Work with CARB to create plain-language outreach deliverables for public summarizing results and impact of project (available in multiple languages)
- Final Report and virtual or in-person seminar
- Peer reviewed publications should be publicly available (please budget for this expense; submission-ready publications shall be reviewed by CARB staff).
Additional deliverables to be determined in consultation with CARB staff.
It is anticipated this project will be completed in 30 months from the start date. Cost shall not exceed $450,000.
- Responsiveness to the Goals and Objectives Outlined in the Proposal Solicitation(15 points) Proposers should demonstrate a clear understanding of the policy objectives and research needs that CARB seeks to address with this project and should convey their knowledge of the subject. The proposal should spell out, in adequate detail, exactly what the Proposer proposes to do to satisfy the requirements of the Solicitation. The draft proposal must propose work that would satisfy the objective(s) stated in the Research Solicitation: to conduct a systematic, in-depth analysis on prioritization, feasibility, costs and benefits of electrification for existing commercial buildings.
- POLICY RELEVANCE/BENEFITS TO THE STATE(10 points) – Does the proposal describe how the project will provide data, information, and/or products to help CARB accomplish its mission? Buildings account for about 25% of the State’s GHG emissions and thus building electrification has been identified as an important measure to achieve the state’s climate goal. Equitable electrification of existing commercial buildings is especially challenging as little is known about the costs, benefits, enabling and limiting factors for electrifying this sector. Would the proposed project provide data that will help fill the knowledge gaps?
- PREVIOUS WORK (15 points) – Do the researchers have relevant experience in this area? Is the team composed of a multidisciplinary team of experts? Do they discuss how they will build upon previous relevant work that was funded by CARB, other state agencies (such as CEC and CPUC), and federal agencies such as the U.S. EPA, and U.S. Department of Energy? If including community engagement, the relevant research partner should describe previous experience in community engagement and provide letters of support, references or a community impact statement, describing how previous work impacted communities. 5 points will be reserved for project teams that meet at least one of the following criteria:
- The project team is multi-disciplinary
- The project team members come from various universities or include non-academic institutions or community-based organizations
- The project team includes one or more members, contributing significantly to the project (i.e. a principle investigator, co-principle investigator or co-investigator, contributing 25% or more of their time to the project) who have not worked with CARB in the past 5 years.
- TECHNICAL MERIT (25 points) - Describe the submission's technical strengths and/or weaknesses. Proposers should demonstrate the logic and feasibility of the methodology and technical approach to the project, spell out the sequence and relationships of major tasks, and explain methods for performing the actual work. Please factor in how well the draft proposal describes these areas:
- Is the proposed work scientifically defensible?
- Are the appropriate California-relevant data sources being considered?
- Does the proposed research demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of “equitable” electrification and a full range of impacts including energy, air quality, health and environmental equity?
- How likely is it that the proposed work will provide useable findings and policy recommendations for CARB?
- Does the proposed research adequately incorporate community partners in reviewing the proposed work, its progress, and final products?
- Does the proposed work address all the deliverables required in section “DELIVERABLES”? If not, the proposal should not be considered for funding.
- Do the researchers have the appropriate background to conduct the proposed work?
- The review team will be selecting only one draft proposal for development into a full proposal. If this draft proposal has potential, what areas or topics should be prioritized or better explained in the full proposal?
- LEVEL AND QUALITY OF EFFORT TO BE PROVIDED(15 points) – Does the proposal allocate time and resources in such a way that the objectives of the study will be met? Is supervision and oversight adequate for ensuring that the project will remain on schedule? Is the distribution of workload appropriate for activities such as research, evaluation and analysis, data reduction, computer simulation, report preparation, meetings, and travel?
- COST EFFECTIVENESS (20 points) - Does the cost seem appropriate for the proposed work? Does the proposed work seem feasible within the requested budget? Projects that provide co-funding should be evaluated more favorably.