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Electric Buildings 2021

Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment

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To prevent air and water pollution and avoid the worst impacts of global warming, America must move toward meeting our energy needs with 100% renewable energy. Getting there will require that we get the most out of every bit of energy we use — and that we stop burning fossil fuels in our homes and commercial buildings.

Wind and solar power are rapidly replacing dirty fossil fuels like coal as leading sources of our electricity. As our electricity grid becomes cleaner, replacing the direct burning of gas, heating oil and propane in our buildings with electricity will reduce pollution of our air, land and water from fossil fuel production and use.

New and improved technologies are putting clean, efficient electric space heating and water heating, and electric appliances like stoves, within the reach of most American households. Analysis shows that electrifying the vast majority of America’s residences and commercial spaces by 2050 could reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from the residential and commercial sectors by about 306 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2050. That is the equivalent of taking about 65 million of today’s cars off the road — almost three times the number of vehicles in Texas.

Completely repowering [America's] homes and businesses with electricity by 2050 is expected to reduce carbon emissions by [XX] million metric tons. It would also reduce pipeline gas usage by [XX] trillion cubic feet.

Electric technologies can repower America’s buildings and open the door to renewable energy.

Today’s electric technologies can meet nearly all our home and business energy needs – and often do so at a competitive cost and with a fraction of the pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion.

Space heating: Electric heat pumps, which pull heat from the air, ground, or from bodies of water and move it around a building, have improved dramatically in recent years. Geothermal heat pumps function well in all climates, and air-source heat pumps can now function efficiently down to -15°F. Air-source and geothermal heat pumps are several times more efficient than gas and oil heating systems and can meet both heating and cooling needs in homes and commercial buildings.

Water heating: Electric resistance, heat pump and solar thermal water heaters can all heat water without the direct use of fossil fuels. New technological developments are making electric technologies more efficient and cost-effective. Water heat pumps are often two to three times as efficient as electric resistance water heaters.

Appliances: Highly efficient electric appliances can replace fossil-fuel powered versions and are often more effective. For example, electric induction cooktops, at about the cost of a mid-tier gas range, cook faster and are cleaner, more precise and safer.

Heat pump
Gary Cziko via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0
Fossil fuel burning in homes and businesses contributes to global warming and puts our health and safety at risk.

There are almost 140 million housing units in the United States, and 5.6 million commercial buildings. Three out of every four American homes use fossil fuels directly for space heating, water heating or appliances. Direct burning of fossil fuels accounts for more than half of all energy used in homes and at least 34% of all energy used in commercial buildings. These tens of millions of housing units and millions of commercial buildings will eventually need to be electrified.

Induction stove
Dennis Schroeder/NREL
Electrifying America’s buildings will help the environment and help break our dependence on fossil fuels.

Switching to electricity to power the vast majority of our homes and businesses by 2050 could cut around 306 million metric tons of annual CO2 emissions in 2050, according to analysis of modeling data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). It would also reduce consumption of gas by upwards of 7 trillion cubic feet in that year relative to a reference scenario — the equivalent of 82% of all the gas consumed in those sectors in 2019. These savings are relative to a business-as-usual reference scenario in which there is no support for, or widespread adoption of, electrification technologies.

New York, California and Texas are the states with the largest projected decrease in emissions, followed by Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

New York, California and Illinois top the list for greatest projected reduction in gas usage, according to the analysis, followed by Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas.

Battery
Electriq Power
Recommendations

Policymakers at the local, state and federal levels should implement policies to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean electricity in our buildings.

  • Require all-electric systems in new construction.
  • Implement rebate programs, incentives and low-cost financing.
  • Implement regulatory solutions, including rate design and fuel-switching regulation changes.
  • Create and expand tax incentives for electrified buildings.
  • Require building energy transparency and implement building performance standards that limit carbon emissions.
  • Educate developers, contractors, retailers and consumers about options for, and benefits of, electrification.
  • Update appliance efficiency standards.
Voice your support for electrifying America’s buildings

If we want to get to a future that is powered by 100 percent clean energy, we have to make sure that our buildings are able to tap into renewable sources. Today we have all the tools we need to construct all-electric buildings and retrofit old ones to connect to a green electric grid.