Increasingly, the Pacific Northwest sees the impacts of climate change in real time. Recently, catastrophic wildfires and wind and ice storms have placed a massive strain on our energy systems. In severe cases, customers have been left without power for days or weeks on end. Meanwhile, our policy climate is shifting decidedly toward a model of 100% clean electricity. Increasing reliance on variable resources raises questions of resource adequacy and reliability. How can we reliably heat and cool everyone’s homes, while keeping service affordable for all?
Heating and powering our homes and businesses generates a substantial amount of our climate-changing pollution; our built environment is a major contributor to global warming. If our homes and buildings were carbon-free and energy efficient, we would significantly reduce our climate pollution, drastically cut energy costs for owners and renters, and improve air quality where we live and work.
For example, in Washington State, emissions from buildings are growing at a faster rate than any other source of carbon pollution, with this increase largely attributable to the use of fossil gas in homes and buildings. Combusting fossil gas in homes and buildings is not only a significant contributor to climate change, but also poses significant health risks for our communities, children, and other vulnerable populations.
Indoor air quality issues are particularly concentrated for low-income residents in smaller units with poor ventilation. Communities of color are already disproportionately impacted by outdoor air pollution, and should not continue to be disproportionately harmed by poor indoor air quality as well. Gas appliances also worsen our outdoor air quality. For example, California’s residential appliances releasing more than two times as many NOx emissions as all of their gas power plants combined, and commercial gas appliances releasing just as much NOx pollution as all of California’s cars.
Many cities in the region and around the country are increasingly looking at ensuring all new buildings are electric as a key cost-effective pathway for achieving their local or state greenhouse emissions goals. Electrifying buildings is critical to addressing climate change, but it is also achievable, affordable, safe, and creates a more resilient energy system.
We are working with partners to move toward electrifying our buildings for heating, cooling and cooking. We can also construct homes and buildings that get all their energy from sustainable sources, and even produce as much energy as they use — net zero energy buildings.
With fossil fuels as the energy source for our buildings, we’re only going to see more unprecedented heat waves. We need to reduce our emissions and protect our communities. That’s where the movement towards clean, safe, all-electric buildings comes in.
The American Jobs Act could provide the biggest-ever US investment in clean energy and equitable climate progress. But the fossil fuel industry is lobbying hard to make sure that doesn't happen. Let's stand up now for climate action!
Our hard-won, 2021 legislative wins on climate are motivated by the idea that tackling the climate crisis can help us create good jobs, it must advance the cause of racial justice, and it must begin to redress past harms and prevent future ones.