Using Passive House to Fast-Track Building Electrification

Bronwyn Barry - Click Here

A growing body of research tells us achieving deep carbon reduction targets of 75% or more will require electrification, including all furnaces and water heaters across the country, and powering those buildings with 100% renewable energy. Nationally, approximately 27% of the total natural gas consumption occurs directly in residential and commercial buildings.

This has led policymakers in many U.S. jurisdictions to consider building electrification policies and incentives as a way to meet climate goals. And with research suggesting fossil fuel-burning appliances such as gas stoves and ovens release nitrogen oxides and particulates, building electrification is also a way to reduce serious health risks such as asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, and heart disease in American neighborhoods.

As of this writing, more than 70 cities across the U.S. have to build decarbonization policies. In December 2021, New York City banned the use of gas and fossil fuels in new buildings. The decision by lawmakers was significant: Not only is New York the largest city in the United States; but it’s also a cold climate that relies heavily on natural gas for heating. If New York can prove that this can be done, other cities will have the confidence to follow.

However, gas bans are not popular in all places. Currently, 20 mostly Republican states have passed laws prohibiting municipalities from banning utility gas usage in local buildings. As we’re seeing play out in many states, gas bans will become increasingly difficult to accomplish.

For municipalities who see electrification as key to achieving climate action goals, what options do they have when gas bans are banned? In these cases, municipalities should consider ‘carrot’ approaches. These include a stretch building codes, outcome-based voluntary programs, and a wide array of incentives, which can all rapidly accelerate electrification even in states where local gas bans are no longer allowed.

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