According to scientific consensus, the future of climate stabilization depends upon the decarbonization of energy systems and the reduction of global greenhouse-gas emissions. The electrification of buildings, power industry researchers explain, is an important step on the path to decarbonization.
A European study conducted by the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project indicates that immediate action is needed in order for European countries to meet the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement. The study outlines the economic and environmental benefits of a shift to electricity in transport, buildings, and industry.
Francesco Starace, Eurelectric president and chief executive of Enel, explains that by “leveraging cost-effective renewables and developments in storage, electricity can lead to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across sectors, making the EU economy cleaner and more competitive.”
In a recent North American study, the Rocky Mountain Institute analyzed the economic and carbon emissions impacts of electrifying buildings. It found that a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will require the elimination of CO2 produced by building furnaces and water heaters.
“70 million American homes and businesses burn natural gas, oil, or propane on-site to heat their space and water, generating 560 million tons of carbon dioxide each year—one-tenth of total US emissions,” the study explains. “But now, we have the opportunity to meet nearly all our buildings’ energy needs with electricity from an increasingly low-carbon electric grid, eliminating direct fossil fuel use in buildings and making obsolete much of the gas distribution system—along with its costs and safety challenges.”
For the study, researchers compared electric heating to fossil-fueled heating under various electric rate structures in four cities: Oakland, CA; Houston, TX; Providence, RI; and Chicago, IL. In many scenarios, the report found that electrification of space and water heating and air conditioning not only reduced the building owner’s costs over the lifetime of the equipment, but that electric heating could be managed to shift energy consumption in time, aiding the cost-effective integration of large amounts of renewable energy onto the grid.
What are your thoughts? The electrification of buildings offers opportunities for carbon emission reduction. Should it be considered a priority?