Local Communities Rallying to Lead Clean Energy Charge
Most advocates for the climate—whether government agencies, politicos, or private citizens—believe that to contain the climate crisis, the wildfires, storms, and other escalating disasters associated with it, the U.S. and other developed nations must reach carbon neutrality by 2050. This being the case, those interests believe that the intervening thirty years provide invaluable opportunities to pivot away from fossil fuels and transition the country to clean energy. They contend that missing these opportunities will not only exacerbate the climate crisis but drive the cost of the transition even higher.
Recently, experts and observers have noted that communities across the country are ready and waiting to do their part by reducing carbon emissions from their power plants, transportation fleets, and buildings. Some, however, charge that a dedicated campaign by gas industry interests threatens to strip communities of valuable policy tools they’re relying on to meet climate goals. They say that the goal of these efforts is to keep energy customers using gas for far longer than is prudent, given their stated objectives relative to the energy transition.
The Hard Data
Approximately 1/3 of the methane (natural gas) consumed in the U.S. each year is used in homes, offices, and other buildings, primarily for heating, hot water, and cooking. The share of U.S. emissions from burning natural gas in buildings has increased over the 10 years. Climate activists claim that the resulting pollution is further destabilizing the climate and compromising the health of consumers where it is used. They say that a growing body of academic evidence has confirmed this by quantifying the detrimental health impacts on people using fossil fuels in homes; further, that natural gas and biomass pollution is now responsible for more premature deaths than pollution from coal.
Considering this data, local governments have begun to more aggressively encourage clean energy use in new buildings where people will live and work. Usually, these initiatives are in the form of building codes that offer financial or compliance incentives for new construction powered by clean energy. These incentives often aid builders in overcoming the reluctance and acquisition costs associated with new technologies.
Generally, it is understood that building in new technologies from the start is easier and more affordable than retrofitting in any industry. As electricity becomes cleaner through the implementation of renewable energy sources, all-electric buildings will help communities manage future costs by avoiding new gas pipelines and other infrastructure that would otherwise need to be maintained during the transition. As the building industry becomes reliant upon efficient electric technologies that help meet the 2050 climate goals, the price of all-electric homes will continue to decrease.
A War of Words… and Legislation
While the rhetoric on both sides of the argument remains adversarial at times, it is easy to grasp the motivations of both sides. Still, given the advances in technology in recent years and the data at hand,
It stands to reason that constructing efficient homes and businesses is important at a time when so many Americans are looking to reduce energy costs. Currently available state-of-the-art technology that can run on 100% clean electricity is reported to be three to five times more efficient than gas-run equipment. Unfortunately, gas industry critics charge that the broad legislative language being advanced by the gas industry threatens to compromise important fuel-neutral efficiency policies. They say that this makes little sense since energy efficiency has long been known to reduce waste, the cost of providing energy service, and consumer energy bills.