New report shows how electrifying Rhode Island’s buildings could cut carbon emissions and transform our energy system
PROVIDENCE -- Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island Research & Policy Center, RIPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The study, Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, found that completely repowering Rhode Island’s homes and businesses with electricity by 2050 is expected to result in emissions reductions of 1.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide -- equal to taking more than 320,000 cars off the road.
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 in our homes and businesses and swap them out for efficient, electric ones,” said Emma Searson, 100% Renewable Campaign director with Environment Rhode Island. “Rewiring our buildings and hooking them up to a clean, green grid will ensure that Rhode Islanders live cleaner, greener and all around healthier lives. The possibilities we see in Rhode Island should give us the hope and motivation we need to kickstart the movement towards 100 percent electric buildings.”
With more than half of Rhode Island homes currently using gas from a utility for heating, full electrification in Rhode Island would reduce total pipeline gas usage in the state by 24.3 billion cubic feet. Getting off of gas also has significant implications for leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The report cites a recent study that looked at five major urban areas on the East Coast -- including Providence -- and found these urban areas emit more than twice the amount of methane previously estimated by the EPA, with most of these emissions coming from leaks of gas systems in homes and businesses.
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,” Searson 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.”
Environment Rhode Island is a statewide environmental organization dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. Environment Rhode Island is an affiliate of Environment America, a national network of 29 state environmental groups.
Environment America is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.