Resilience (sometimes referred to as “resiliency”) has been defined broadly as "the ability to resist being affected by an event or the ability to return to an acceptable level of performance in an acceptable period of time after being affected by an event closing." In the event of a disaster or extreme event, the benefits of energy-efficient buildings can extend far beyond cost savings. Buildings designed to be energy efficient and/or store or produce energy onsite offer a greater level of protection to the people and operations they house.
Do Energy Efficiency and Onsite Energy Contribute to Resilience?
Energy efficiency measures contribute to resilience in a number of ways:
Increased Passive Survivability
Energy efficiency increases the passive survivability of buildings—the ability of buildings to maintain habitable conditions in the event of a heating/cooling system loss.
Efficient buildings, especially those that incorporate passive design characteristics such as green roofs or passive solar heating, stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. This increased level of passive protection can allow individuals to shelter in place during an adverse event, potentially reducing morbidity and mortality. This is particularly important for residential buildings. It is also relevant for public buildings that might serve as community relief centers during adverse events.
Long-Lasting Backup Power from Distributed Generation
During a power outage, backup power (e.g., batteries, onsite solar, generators, or combined heat and power [CHP]) allows for continuity of operations and building habitability.
The Better Buildings Initiative has published an extensive guide to using distributed generation to build resilience, and previously ran an accelerator program to build critical infrastructure resilience through CHP. Energy efficiency measures are a powerful complement to onsite energy generation and storage, as they can significantly reduce the necessary size and cost of installing backup power systems, and can increase the reliability of existing backup power in serving critical loads. This is of particular relevance for commercial and industrial customers, for whom the economic impacts of a loss of power tend to be significantly greater than for residential customers.
Lower Risk of Grid Overload
Decreased demand may decrease the likelihood of electricity grid failures or natural gas transmission constraints during extreme events (e.g., heat waves or winter storms) that drive peak demand beyond system capacity.
In the electric power system, this can happen when demand rises across large areas connected by high-capacity transmission lines, but also if demand spikes in a small community using the same distribution infrastructure. In 2006, a record-breaking heat wave in California spiked energy demand to levels beyond system capacity, leaving hundreds of thousands of customers without power during one of the hottest periods on record.
Lower Exposure to Event-Driven Price Spikes
Efficient buildings reduce the energy consumption impact of event-driven (e.g., heatwave, cold snap) price spikes on power and heating fuel.
In 2014, after the Polar Vortex event caused a spike in natural gas prices, the average customer of one gas utility in Illinois saw monthly bills increase by 57 percent. Simple efficiency measures can have major benefits in insulating firms and individuals from such major price swings.
Organizations can procure renewable energy in three ways: 1) Owning renewable energy systems and consuming the energy they generate, 2) purchasing renewable power from third-party-owned systems, or 3) purchasing unbundled renewable energy credits (RECs). In any case, an organization needs to own and retire the RECs associated with the power in order to make renewable energy claims. Renewable energy generation can occur on-site (e.g. rooftop solar, micro-wind) or off-site (e.g. utility-scale renewables, community solar). An organization’s portfolio of renewable energy may include one or a combination of these procurement options to meet a broader goal. Below are some basic topics about renewable energy that may help inform decision-making including green power markets, technology integration, and costs and feasibility.
CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships
DOE's CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships (CHP TAPs) promote and assist in transforming the market for CHP, waste heat to power, and district energy technologies/concepts throughout the United States. The CHP TAPs are available to assist partners with end user engagement and education, stakeholder engagement and education, as well as provide a variety of technical services.
Better Buildings Webinars on Resilience
The Better Buildings Webinar Series takes on the most pressing topics facing energy professionals, with new experts leading the conversations on proven best practices, cost-effective strategies, and innovative new ways to approach sustainability and energy performance. Webinars that are specific to resilience include:
- Building Resilient Communities: State and Local Perspectives (Recorded with slides and transcript)
- Planning for Resilience in Multifamily Housing: A portfolio-wide Approach (Recorded with slides and transcript)
- Save Money and Build Resilience with Distributed Energy Technologies (Recorded with slides and transcript)
- Distributed Energy Resources for Cost Savings and Resilience (Recorded with slides and transcript)
- Using Commercial Pace Financing to Improve Efficiency and Resiliency In Buildings (Recorded with slides and transcript)
- Buildings That Rebound: Resiliency Strategies for Commercial Buildings and Communities (Recorded with slides and transcript)
- Perspectives on Resilience: Insurance and Credit Underwriting (Recorded with slides and transcript)
- Climate Risk Assessments: Commercial Buildings & Portfolio Resilience (Recorded with slides and transcript)
Better Buildings Leadership Summit
The Better Buildings, Better Plants Summit is a virtual, no-cost event featuring engaging and interactive sessions, as well as opportunities for attendees to network with their fellow industry peers and experts. Be sure to register for the 2021 Virtual Summit taking place May 17-20, 2021 to save your seat for the latest discussions on energy efficiency and resilience.CHP Technical Assistance Partnerships
Better Buildings E-Learning Center
Discover online training and education opportunities from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Better Buildings Affiliates who are working with DOE to promote energy efficiency in U.S. buildings and manufacturing plants. This site contains a collection of webinars, courses, and other e-learning resources covering a range of areas relevant to Better Buildings, Better Plants partners, including resilience.