New report: Electrifying America’s buildings by 2050 could be like taking 65 million cars off the road

Media Contacts
Matt Casale

Former Director, Environment Campaigns, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Building electrification is a key step to cutting carbon emissions and reaching 100 percent renewable energy

U.S. PIRG Education Fund

BOSTON — Replacing fossil fuel technology with electric options in the majority of American homes and businesses over the next 30 years could reduce so much net carbon emissions that it would be the equivalent of taking 65 million cars — almost one-fourth of the total number of cars in the U.S. in 2019 — off the road. These important savings are just one of the major findings in a new report released Tuesday by Environment America Research & Policy Center, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. Entitled Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, the study documents the benefits of electrifying the majority of buildings in America to consumers and the environment. 

In addition, the report ranks states by their capacity to decrease greenhouse gas emissions through building electrification. New York, California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania were the states with the greatest ability to lower climate damage over the next 30 years by cutting fossil fuel usage out of homes and offices.

“We have all the tools we need to make our homes and businesses fossil fuel free, but we need to actually use them,” said Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Environment Campaigns director. “It’s time to end our dependence on the dirty resources that damage our environment and pollute the air we breathe, both inside and outside. Electrifying our buildings will not only play a big role in realizing that important goal, but can unlock potential to harness affordable, clean electricity from solar panels and other renewable sources. It’s never been easier or cheaper to take advantage of a variety of electric technologies.” 

Such electric technologies as heat pumps, water heaters and induction stoves can help America end its reliance on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels, the report explains. Advances in these technologies make choosing a fully electric system for homes and commercial buildings an efficient and affordable decision for owners in almost all new construction situations. In some cities, installing a heat pump over fossil fuel heating methods in a new home could save between $1,600 and $6,800 for space and water heating over a 15-year period. In other locations, savings could reach as high as $13,700 during the same time span.

Electrifying America’s buildings is critical to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and put us on the path toward 100 percent renewable energy. In 2018, fossil fuel combustion in U.S. homes and businesses produced 590 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for almost 9 percent of total U.S. emissions. 

“Last century, many families saw their quality of life improve when they switched from a coal-burning stove to an electric or gas range, or an icebox to an electric refrigerator,” said Faye Park, U.S. PIRG Education Fund president. “Now, a similar technological revolution is underway to replace fossil fuel heating and cooking with electric technologies. Today’s electric heat pumps offer better indoor climate control and lower operating costs than gas furnaces and the sooner America makes the switch, the sooner we’ll realize the benefits of cleaner and more efficient energy.”