New report shows how electrifying Washington’s buildings could cut carbon emissions and transform our energy system

Washington has the ability to make a big cut to damaging fossil fuel use in homes and offices

Environment Washington Research and Policy Center

Seattle — Washington could see a critical reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and gas usage if it electrifies all of its buildings during the next 30 years, according to a new report released today by Environment Washington Research & Policy Center, Washington PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The study, Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, found that completely repowering Washington’s homes and businesses with electricity by 2050 is expected to result in a net reduction of 7.7 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. 

The report also outlines how overcoming key barriers standing in the way of widespread building electrification can improve public health and play a key role in fighting climate change. “It’s time to get rid of dirty, dangerous technologies and swap them out for efficient, electric ones to ensure that Washingtonians live cleaner, greener and all around healthier lives “ said John Ammondson, Advocate with Environment Washington Research & Policy Center. “The possibilities we see in Washington should give us the hope and motivation we need to kickstart the movement towards 100 percent electric buildings.”

Greenhouse gas emissions from buildings made up 14% of Washington’s statewide emissions in 2017, up 50% from 1990 levels, but there are plans to change that trajectory. The City of Seattle announced in December that a new energy code update would eliminate the use of fossil fuels for space heating and most water heating in new commercial and large multi-family construction in order to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy on-site, while a statewide Healthy Homes and Clean Buildings Act to transition Washington’s buildings to electric by 2050 made it out of its first committee before stalling. 

In addition to state-specific data, the study identifies the national benefits from banning fossil fuels in homes and businesses. Electrifying a majority of America’s buildings by 2050 could reduce net emissions from the residential and commercial sectors by 306 million metric tons, which is equivalent to taking about 65 million cars off the road.

Electric Buildings also emphasizes the role such electric technologies as heat pumps, water heaters and other electric appliances like induction stoves can play as America moves away from fossil fuels. Advances in electrifying these technologies have made them more efficient and affordable. This means that using fully electric systems in homes and commercial buildings now makes sense for owners in almost all instances of new construction. 

“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,” Ammondson said. “Today, a similar technological revolution is underway to replace fossil fuel heating and cooking with electric technologies. Current 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.”