Buildings account for more than 40 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is due in part to the mix of energy sources that power buildings: Nearly half of all homes in the United States are powered by natural gas, and fossil fuels continue to play a leading role in keeping buildings heated or cooled.
Building electrification, when paired with the increased use of renewable sources of energy like wind and solar, will have a dramatic impact on the nation’s carbon footprint. Emerging – and in some cases, long-existing – technologies like heat pumps can move buildings away from fossil fuels and towards more cleaner sources of energy.
Building electrification also has health benefits. A study by MIT found that combustion emissions from the building sector contribute more than a third of all premature deaths associated with air pollution.
Electrifying the building sector is no small task, and the process faces various challenges, from cost to consumer preferences to ensuring reliability of the electric grid. The federal government can help speed the movement towards electrification through investing in incentives and rebates, promoting renewable energy and supporting development of a strong national electric grid.
RMI finds that in many scenarios, electrification of space and water heating and air conditioning reduces the homeowner’s costs over the lifetime of the appliances when compared with performing the same functions with fossil fuels.