Tens of millions of Americans currently rely on gas to heat, cool and cook in their homes. While that gas is often described as “natural,” it is primarily made up of methane, a super-potent greenhouse gas with 80 times the climate-warming harm of carbon dioxide over its first 20 years in the atmosphere.
If that’s not bad enough, burning methane produces pollutants, like nitrogen dioxide, that can lead to and worsen respiratory diseases, including childhood asthma. Using a gas cooktop that is not properly vented to the outside can lead to air pollution levels inside a home that would be illegal outdoors. One report compared the effects of using a gas stove around kids with asthma to those of second-hand smoke exposure.
Electric appliances can help us get off gas and make our homes healthier and cleaner.
And there’s great news: the Build Back Better Act, which passed in the House last week and now heads to the Senate, includes provisions that will make electrification projects easier and more affordable for all Americans.
This bill is historic. Containing $555 billion in investments in climate action, Build Back Better sets the U.S. on the path to achieve a 50-52% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2030.
To meet that goal, significant strides need to be made in developing our clean energy economy, both at the federal level and locally. This is where electric appliances come in— one of the best things we can do to work toward a 100% clean, renewable energy system is to electrify our homes and buildings, so we don’t have to rely any longer on dirty fuel sources for heating, cooling or cooking.
Luckily, the bill includes several provisions that would help both individual homeowners and businesses alike work toward total electrification. For example, the High-Efficiency Electric Home Rebate Program (Section 30412) allocates roughly $6 billion for the DOE to provide rebates to homeowners and landlords for qualifying electrification projects, like installing an electric heat pump. Of that sum, $3.8 billion is set aside specifically for rebates for tribal communities and low- to moderate-income families. Equally important to note, the program provides $4 million to go towards community and consumer education and outreach, which is crucial in the overall success of the program.
Another great program outlined in the framework is Assistance for Latest and Zero Building Energy Code Adoption (Section 30422). Building codes across the country have been necessarily updated to transition new construction and existing buildings off of fossil fuels, and this section appropriates funds in the form of grants to assist state and local governments in adopting these updated energy codes. In total, the program allocates $300 million for adopting and implementing both the latest energy building codes and zero energy and equivalent codes.
The importance of these programs, which focus on more individual and local action, cannot be overstated. While they accompany broader, federal investments in offshore wind, solar, electric vehicles and more, it’s critical for our homes and communities to be ready for the coming transition to clean energy, so we can move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. The Build Back Better Bill represents a historic victory for climate action, both across the country, and in our own homes.