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Arizona could see a critical reduction of gas usage and greenhouse gas emissions if it electrifies buildings during the next 30 years, according to a report released today by Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The report, Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, outlines how overcoming key barriers standing in the way of widespread building electrification can improve public health and benefit consumers.
The report highlights reasons that state and federal policymakers should adopt and implement policies to accelerate the shift towards electric buildings including:
● Burning fossil fuels puts public health at risk. Fossil fuel use creates indoor and outdoor air pollution, increasing the risk of respiratory diseases, heart disease, cancer, and infectious diseases. Since 2000, there have been more than 5,000 gas pipeline incidents in the U.S. which have resulted in the death of hundreds of people and injured over 1,000 individuals.
● Electrifying buildings will reduce fossil fuel use. Analysis of data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Energy Information Administration 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 (CO2) in 2050 – the equivalent of taking about 65 million of today’s cars off the road.
● Building electrification makes sense for consumers. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, across the country, all-electric new homes are less expensive over 15 years than mixed-fuel homes. In certain municipalities, installing a heat pump over fossil fuel heating methods in a new home could save between $1,600 and $6,800 over a 15-year period, and in others, savings could reach as high as $13,700 during the same time period. And retrofitting homes with electric heat pumps is already cost effective in many places, particularly if both a furnace and A/C are replaced when they wear out.
“New and improved technologies are making it easier and more affordable for households to switch from gas, a fossil fuel, to electric water heating and electric appliances, such as stoves,” stated Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “The more Arizonans shift from burning gas in homes and businesses to using clean electric systems, the more consumers, air quality, and public health will benefit.”
Bryn Huxley-Reicher, Policy Associate with the Frontier Group and Co-Author of the Electric Buildings report, added, “One key step towards a clean electric future is to improve energy efficiency. Efficient buildings are easier to switch from gas to renewable energy sources like solar, and reduce the need for costly new generation and transmission infrastructure.”
According to the report, the barriers to rapid adoption of electrification in buildings include consumers’ and contractors’ lack of familiarity with the technology, high initial costs of retrofitting buildings, regulatory hurdles like Arizona’s ban on municipal gas restrictions, and unfavorable utility rate designs.
Brown concluded, “Instead of continuing to invest in archaic fossil fuel infrastructure that contributes to air pollution, adverse public health impacts, and energy waste which costs consumers money, state and federal policymakers should accelerate the shift in our homes and businesses toward electrification.”
The report calls on policymakers to require all-electric systems in new construction; update appliance efficiency standards; implement rebate programs, incentives and low-cost financing; implement regulatory solutions, including rate design changes; create and expand tax incentives for electrified buildings; require building energy transparency and implement building performance standards that limit carbon emissions; and educate developers, contractors, retailers and consumers about options for, and benefits of, electrification.
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