Current commercial trends, such as the building of floor spaceand Internet use, will be factors that drive commercial gas demandup 1.2% annually from 3.3 quadrillion Btus in 1997 to 4.0 quads in2015, the Gas Research Institute said in its latest report, the1999 Commercial Sector Summary (GRI-99/0007). It also predicts thatcommercial energy consumption – which accounts for 10% of alldomestic energy demand – is expected to grow 1.1 % annually, from7.6 quads to 9.2 quads by 2015.

The GRI called commercial floorspace “the key driver ofcommercial energy consumption.” The institute expects 11 billionsquare feet to be built by 2015 in mostly southern states, wherecooling loads are heavy.

“In the early 1980s, a building boom fueled in large part byspeculative overbuilding was followed by a recession and nationwidecorporate downsizing that left a glut of office space lasting wellinto the 1990s,” said Kathy Nice, GRI project manager. “Growth incommercial floorspace has leveled off and is projected to continueto increase at slightly over 1 percent per year through 2015. Thebulk of new commercial construction is projected to occur in theSouth where space cooling is the dominant energy load. This willoffer new opportunities for gas cooling and desiccants.”

The GRI pointed to popular current trends as reasons for theintense construction and increased energy demand. “Changingdemographics and lifestyles are likely to impact commercial energyconsumption in several areas…” the report said. “Internet andcatalog shopping are expected to reduce demand for retailfloorspace while increasing the need for warehouse floorspace.”

The report also pointed to energy deregulation as a driver forincreased gas demand over the next 15 years. With the regulatorychanges expected to take place, more commercial businesses will getthe chance to serve their own energy needs. Through this”self-generating,” the GRI opportunities for “small generatingtechnologies, such as gas-powered microturbines, will enabledistributed generation to compete with purchased electricity on acost basis in many regions.”

“The competition between gas and electric will intensify overthe next 15 years as energy services are unbundled andrestructured, energy markets become more competitive with newplayers, changing lifestyles affect commercial energy usage, andconstruction of new commercial floorspace continues to grow,” saidNice.

Questions should be addressed to Kelly Murray, GRI BaselineCenter, Arlington, VA., at 703-526-7832. The study can be orderedfrom the GRI Document Fulfillment Center by fax at 630-406-5995.The study is $20 for GRI members and $25 for nonmembers.

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