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Electrification

The Alliance for Green Heat supports the transition away from fossil fuels heating systems to low-carbon, affordable, and renewable sources of heat. To achieve the best possible outcome in carbon reductions, electrification with heat pumps will work for primary or secondary heating systems for most homes. We also support the strategic expansion of modern wood and pellet heating systems, which complements heat pumps in many ways, including providing back up heat during power outages.

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However, as we electrify residential heating, we need to ensure that we don't unintentionally allow the rise in electrical resistance/baseboard heating. AGH strongly advocates for electrification policies that restrict or prohibit electrical resistance/baseboard heating because of its carbon intensity and long-term expenses, particularly in low-to-middle income (LMI) households.

We align this work with advocacy targeted to increase energy audits and weatherization programs, especially in homes with wood stoves, to increase energy efficiency and ensure affordable and safe heating for all.

The Electrification of Heating

 

Residential energy use makes up around 20% of GHG emissions in the United States. Space heating and cooling account for around 38% of those residential energy GHG emissions. There is no scientific doubt that the world requires climate action in all sectors and at all scales. And there is very little doubt that these actions must take place quickly to avert the worst effects of our already changing climate. Electrification of homes is one solution that can help lower GHG emissions in the residential energy use space.

While electrification paves the path towards a more sustainable residential energy use sector, it is also necessary to decarbonize the electric grid to get there. The movement to electrify homes will increase overall electricity demand and the scale of the power system. Thus, the amount and the percent of renewables must grow. Data as of February 2023 shows that fossil fuels (like coal, natural gas, and petroleum) generate 60.2% of electricity in the United States, nuclear generates 18%, and renewables generate 21.5% of electricity.

Because renewable sources (e.g. wind, solar, etc.) are some of the fastest-growing sources of electricity, the electrification movement can achieve its goal, although there are scores of challenges and a potentially slower time-line than needed. Also, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are now cost-competitive with fossil fuels, which will only increase the speed by which these alternative energy sources rise in popularity. A 2022 National Renewable Energy Laboratory report found that renewable technologies in popular use today can provide most (90%) of electricity by 2035 in a “deeply decarbonized power sector.”

Many electrification plans are set to actively take place 3 to 5 years after they are approved, not right away. In some instances, electrification policy is only calling for utilities and government entities to build a plan or design a report for electrification.

Electrification policy issues

AGH considers several factors when analyzing proposed electrification plans:

  1. Does this electrification policy allow wood or pellet stoves to continue being used as a heating option in new or existing houses?

  2. Does this electrification policy provide adequate guardrails to prevent the installation of electric resistance/baseboard heating systems?

  3. Does the policy allow a transition period before it is mandatory?

  4. Does the policy protect lower income homes from bearing an even higher percent of their income on utilities.

AGH has long advocated for the recognition that wood stoves can be a low-carbon, local, renewable heating source for many households in areas that are not densely inhabited. Pellet stoves offer a high-efficiency option and are also suitable in densely inhabited areas. Pellet stoves can be equipped with battery storage to provide a reliable source of heat when electricity is unavailable or by hooking them up to a generator.

Policy language that lumps “unregulated fuels,” with no other clarifying definitions, with a ban on fossil fuels is a red flag and an indicator that the policy may prohibit wood and pellet stoves. At other times, if the language bans “combustible technology” without clarifying that it means fossil fuel combustion technology, this could also raise another red flag that wood and pellet stoves could be intentionally or unintentionally targeted. AGH supports electrification and the promotion of heat pumps in homes, and believes that wood and pellet stoves are also essential low carbon heaters that can generate more confidence in heat pumps.

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Electrical resistance/baseboard heating systems are inefficient and costly in the long term. AGH advocates for strong language that discourages or expressly prohibits this type of system in policies that are introducing electrification. Because these systems are often cheap to install, low-to-moderate income (LMI) households and/or affordable housing could fall victim to having this electric system pushed into their homes by design or happenstance. In order to protect lower socioeconomic households and to ensure energy equity, making high-efficiency and low-cost electric options easily available to LMI households and affordable housing projects is essential.

To see examples of the electrification policy work that AGH has undertaken in 2023, check out the documents below:

New Jersey SB.3672 comment
EPA Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grant RFI comment
Howard County CB5-2023 comment

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