Diane E. Brown.jpg

Diane E. Brown

New and improved technologies are making it easier and more affordable for households to switch from gas, a fossil fuel, to electric water heating and electric appliances, such as stoves.

The latest report by Arizona PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group highlights reasons that our state and federal policymakers should adopt and implement policies to accelerate the shift towards electric buildings:

Burning fossil fuels puts our health at risk. Fossil fuel use creates indoor and outdoor air pollution, increasing the risk of respiratory diseases, heart disease, cancer, and infectious diseases. Since 2000, there have been more than 5,000 gas pipeline incidents in the U.S. which have resulted in the death of hundreds of people and injured over 1,000 individuals.

Electrifying buildings will reduce fossil fuel use. Analysis of data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Energy Information Administration shows that electrifying the vast majority of America’s residences and commercial spaces by 2050 could reduce net greenhouse gas emissions from the residential and commercial sectors by about 306 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2050 — the equivalent of taking about 65 million of today’s cars off the road — while simultaneously improving air quality and public health.

Building electrification makes sense for consumers. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, across the country, all-electric new homes are less expensive over 15 years than mixed-fuel homes. In certain municipalities, installing a heat pump over fossil fuel heating methods in a new home could save between $1,600 and $6,800 over a 15-year period, and in others, savings could reach as high as $13,700 during the same time period. And retrofitting homes with electric heat pumps is already cost effective in many places, particularly if both a furnace and A/C are replaced when they wear out.

While the benefits to moving towards electric buildings are numerous, there are barriers such as consumers’ and contractors’ lack of familiarity with the technology, high initial costs of retrofitting buildings, regulatory hurdles like Arizona’s ban on municipal gas restrictions, and unfavorable utility rate designs.

Instead of continuing to invest in archaic fossil fuel infrastructure that contributes to air pollution, adverse public health impacts, and energy waste which costs consumers money, state and federal policymakers can help Arizonans overcome barriers and accelerate the shift in our homes and businesses toward electrification.

Policymakers should require all-electric systems in new construction; update appliance efficiency standards; implement rebate programs, incentives and low-cost financing; implement regulatory solutions, including rate design changes; create and expand tax incentives for electrified buildings; require building energy transparency and implement building performance standards that limit carbon emissions; and educate developers, contractors, retailers and consumers about options for, and benefits of, electrification. The sooner the better.

Diane E. Brown is the Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, an organization that conducts research and education on issues in the public interest. Bryn Huxley-Reicher is a Policy Associate with the Frontier Group and Co-Author of the Electric Buildings report.

(2) comments


While such conversions reduce CO2 emissions at the point of consumption, this report does not include the effects on the point of generation. In the Portland study (SpringerLink, 05-22-20) data from a study building showed that such a conversion saved 872,500 kWh/yr. Impressive! These are not, however, real savings, just shifting burdens because, at the point of generation the increase in most of 872,500kWh/yr. results in replacement generation which increases the CO2 by 80270 tons/yr. (using USA average of 0.92 tons of CO2 per kWh).

These data may change significantly when particularized for all the specific conditions pertaining to one building in a specific area; however, they indicate that given the current mix of power generation sources in America (large amounts of coal and oil) while important, such conversions are of little value so long as we continue to suicidally generate power from fossil fuels. In fact, conservation measures not only save money, but they result in no increase of power at the point of generation. The best strategy is to simultaneously increase renewables and nuclear generating sources while implementing efficiency and conservation in our structures.

This trade-off also applies to electric vehicles which draw their battery charges from the grid where generation is dominated by fossil fuels.


[smile] Ron - I've been a fan of your comments in the Independent for many years. Always articulate and thought provoking.

Mike Park Pinetop

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