New report: Electrifying buildings would bring major benefits for climate and public health

Media Contacts

Environment Massachusetts

BOSTON – Massachusetts ranks eighth in the nation in the potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that can be realized by electrifying its buildings, according to a new report released today by Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, MASSPIRG Education Fund, and Frontier Group.

The report, Electric Buildings: Repowering homes and businesses for our health and environment, finds that replacing the use of fossil fuels for space heating, water heating, and cooking with electricity would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 10 million metric tons, equivalent to taking more than 2 million cars off the road.

“It’s never been easier to make our homes and businesses fossil-fuel-free,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “Getting rid of dirty, outdated technologies will mean cleaner air and a safer climate for all of us.”

Electric Buildings describes the role that technologies like heat pumps can play in moving away from fossil fuels. A study from the Rocky Mountain Institute evaluating Boston and other major cities found that installing heat pumps and other electric technologies in new construction saves customers money compared to using gas or oil.

The report also summarizes the growing body of evidence pointing to the negative health impacts of gas stoves. Electric induction cooking is a reliable and efficient alternative to cooking with gas stoves.

“Buildings powered with clean electricity create healthy indoor air, reduce heating and cooling costs and ensure thermal comfort during summer and winter months. Building electrification is one pathway for our built environment to pollute less and contribute more directly to our collective well-being,” said Sarah Dooling, executive director for the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN). “When building electrification is combined with energy efficiency and renewable energy, then buildings are truly healthy, affordable and safe.”

The report comes as state officials consider how to reduce the use of oil and gas in our buildings. The next three-year plan for Massachusetts’ energy efficiency programs, currently under development, could expand the availability of incentives for heat pumps and other electric technologies. At the request of Attorney General Maura Healey, the Department of Public Utilities has opened an investigation into the future of gas utilities as the Commonwealth moves to reduce carbon emissions.

Several legislators have introduced bills that would encourage building electrification, including:

  • The 100% Clean Act (HD.3551, SD.2205), which will require new buildings to be built fossil-fuel-free after 2030, and expand programs to retrofit existing buildings, with a goal of achieving 100 percent clean heating for Massachusetts by 2045.
  • The GREEN Act (HD.3029, SD.2306), which will establish a program to retrofit housing in Gateway Cities to be efficient, electrified, and powered with renewable energy.
  • The Better Buildings Act (HD.3385, SD.2114), which will establish energy performance standards requiring the owners of large buildings to reduce their use of fossil fuels over time.

“I am thankful to partner with Environment Massachusetts and MCAN to introduce the GREEN Act to help low-income homeowners and landlords retrofit low- and moderate-income housing in Gateway Cities and in smaller, similarly-situated, communities,” said state Rep. Natalie Higgins (Leominster) “These neighborhoods have an important role to play in the statewide transition to 100 percent renewable energy.”

“I am thrilled to be able to offer a legislative solution for Gateway Cities that would simultaneously modernize affordable and market-rate housing, reduce emissions, lower costs and produce a higher quality of life for the end-consumer,” said state Rep. Michael Kushmerek (Fitchburg).

“This timely report lays out a robust vision for transitioning our homes and buildings to clean renewable energy for a carbon-free future,” said state Sen. Brendan P. Crighton (Lynn). “Particularly in our Gateway Cities and other environmental justice communities, we must act with urgency to address the disproportionate impacts of fossil fuels on public health and our climate.”

“Last century, many families saw their quality of life improve when they switched from an icebox to an electric refrigerator,” said Deirdre Cummings, consumer program director for MASSPIRG Education Fund. “Today, a similar technological revolution is underway to replace fossil fuel heating and cooking with cleaner, more efficient electric technologies. The sooner America makes the switch, the sooner we’ll realize the benefits for consumers and for our environment.”

Read Electric Buildings: Repowering homes and businesses for our health and environment.