Electrification: The Triumphs and Tragedies of Transformation
The combination of innovative products, progressive policy, aggressive incentives, consumer awareness, and investor demand is driving the electrification of the built environment and transportation systems, but it’s not all smooth sailing.
It’s fairly common knowledge at this point that the building industry is one of the most conspicuously consumptive segments of our economy, accounting for massive amounts of resource use and carbon emissions.
According to the EPA, 70 million U.S. homes generate over 560 million tons of CO2 each year—roughly 20 percent of our nation’s total emissions. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), if U.S. residential buildings were a country, it would be the sixth-highest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world.
Fortunately, the electrification of America is well underway, with jurisdictions from California to New York implementing mandates and rebates for all-electric new construction and retrofits.
Evolving codes are encouraging the phaseout of natural gas infrastructure. Some municipalities are completely banning natural gas hookups, while others are offering incentives, like density bonuses, to builders and developers who electrify their communities.
An unprecedented $369 billion has been allocated through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to reduce domestic emissions approximately 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, offering homeowners up to $14,000 to install advanced technologies and make energy efficiency improvements.
And consumer demand is following suit: according to Green Builder Media’s COGNITION Smart Data, a majority of Baby Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial survey respondents said that they would purchase an all-electric home, and 100 percent of Gen Zs responded that they would purchase an all-electric home—a clear indication that preferences aren’t just shifting, but, rather, that paradigms are exploding.
COGNITION Smart Data 2022 survey: Would you buy an all-electric home?
No Small Task
As the country electrifies, there are some real obstacles blocking progress.
First and foremost, the grid isn’t quite ready for full-scale electrification. Major investments are needed to update grid infrastructure, transformers, conductors, service panels, and equipment to handle the increased electricity demand, and many utility companies lack both the capacity to quickly upgrade their systems and the capital to incur related costs.
Another substantial hindrance is pervasive labor challenges—there is a severe shortfall of skilled contractors that have the expertise and willingness to install advanced electrification technologies.
Give Them Hope
Even with the challenges, electrification marches on. According to Senator Martin Heinrich from New Mexico, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the founder and Co-Chair of the Bicameral Electrification Caucus, “We are now in a place where electric technologies—from electric vehicles and heat pumps to induction stovetops and home batteries—have leapfrogged their fossil burning competitors in efficiency and performance.”
“Pairing the electrification of our buildings, transportation, and industrial processes with the massive buildout of decarbonized power generation, highly efficient architecture, and quality construction techniques is how we will reduce pollution and prevent the worst impacts of a warming planet,” he asserts.
Heinrich and his colleagues in the Electrification Caucus are crafting and enacting policies that support electrification, while simultaneously working to ensure that sufficient public funding and private investment is flowing to research and development of electrification technologies.
And, even though he recognizes the potholes in the road ahead, he is hopeful about the future. Why? Attend his session, The Great Energization: Transition to Electrification, at Green Builder Media’s upcoming virtual Sustainability Symposium 2023: The Great Conversion on April 19 & 20 to find out.
During the session, we’ll ask him questions about:
- Updating the grid to accommodate full-scale electrification
- Innovations he is keeping a keen eye on
- Bipartisan support for electrification
- Electrification success stories
- How you can get involved in the transition to electrification
A heartfelt thank you to Trane Technologies and Whirlpool Corporation for their continued support of our annual Sustainability Symposium, as well as their total commitment to corporate sustainability.