By making this switch, we will also create millions of new jobs, save households money on their energy bills and protect lives by improving the air we breathe in our homes and workplaces.
To get there, we need to begin by electrifying large parts of our economy and changing the supply of all that electricity from polluting fuels to clean energy. We must start with our homes and vehicles because, according to research from Rewiring America, a non-profit organization focused on the widespread electrification of the US economy, 42 percent of all of our energy-related carbon emissions come from the machines we have in our households and our cars. To keep global warming at liveable temperatures, we need to replace existing machines that use fossil fuels with clean electric substitutes when they reach the end of life. Deep decarbonisation analyses, such as a recent report by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, conclude that working to electrify our vehicles, homes and businesses is a critical part of achieving economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050.
We cannot rely on Energy Star, which certifies energy-efficient products. We need to get to zero emissions as soon as possible, and you can’t “efficiency” your way to zero. Even an efficient natural gas furnace installed today can emit carbon dioxide for 20 years or more. Rewiring America offers one blueprint for this transition that underscores its enormous scope — and the benefits that will result. The group has calculated that we must replace or install one billion machines. More than half of those would replace the ones we now have in our homes that burn fossil fuels — including our space-heating machines like furnaces, water heaters, cars, and clothes dryers. What if we build those electric appliances in America? That’s a lot of manufacturing.
The other close to half a billion machines are the infrastructure we must install to generate and distribute that electricity — breaker boxes, batteries, rooftop solar systems and vehicle chargers. To power those billion machines, we will need to greatly increase the amount of electricity we produce, and do so cleanly.
One billion sounds like a daunting number, but it is also an enormous opportunity. The road map will create, among other things, as many as 25 million new, good-paying jobs at the peak of this effort to switch to clean energy. Those jobs will be spread across the country. These workers will be the electricians installing new car-charging stations in your garage and the plumbers replacing that old gas water heater with a hyper-efficient heat pump water heater. They will be HVAC technicians replacing that old gas furnace with a ducted heat pump. Electrifying smartly will make our grid more reliable and our homes more resilient, and create millions of good-paying jobs. And it will go a long way toward saving the planet for us and future generations.
Heinrich, Democrat of New Mexico, is a member of the Senate’s energy and natural resources committee. NYT©2021
The New York Times