No really, blame the buildings

In response to this previous post noting that buildings account for roughly half of energy use in the U.S. and therefore half of CO2 emissions, the astute reader might be inclined to point out that here in Seattle we get about 89% (or is it 86%?) of our electricity from carbon-free hydro, and thus our buildings don’t deserve so much of the blame. True enough, assuming you don’t mind that our thirst for hydropower has decimated the largest salmon run that ever existed on the planet.

But here’s the gotcha: our hydropower capacity is maxed out, and we aren’t getting any more. Any new electricity demand will be met primarily by coal or gas-fired power plants, (at least until we massively increase our renewable capacity). And yes, blame the buildings for our maxed out hydro: In the U.S. buildings consume about three-quarters of total electricity.

Well then, what about all those new buildings we’re putting up? Seattle’s population is projected to increase by about 25% by 2040 (or more like 60% if you believe Mayor Nickels). If Seattle hopes to reduce its CO2 emissions in the future, we best be getting a lot better at designing energy-efficient buildings, and fast.