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New report: By electrifying buildings, PA would reap massive health benefits, climate pollution reductions

State places in top-10 nationwide when it comes to potential energy usage and pollution reductions
For Immediate Release

Philadelphia, PA -- Pennsylvania ranks sixth in the nation for its potential to reduce global warming pollution by electrifying buildings, according to a new report released today by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, PennPIRG Education Fund, and Frontier Group. The study, Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, found that completely electrifying Pennsylvania’s homes and businesses by 2050 would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 13.7 million metric tons -- equal to taking nearly 3 million cars off the road. Going all-electric in our state’s buildings would help cut emissions, improve public health, and protect the planet, the report concluded. 

The report also outlines how overcoming key barriers currently standing in the way of widespread building electrification can improve public health and play a key role in fighting climate change.

“To ensure that Pennsylvanians live cleaner, greener, and all around healthier lives, we need to break off our dependence on dirty, dangerous fossil fuels. It’s time to rewire our buildings to make them more efficient and all-electric, and hook them up to a clean, green grid,” said Flora Cardoni, Field Director with PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. “The possibilities we see in Pennsylvania should give us the hope and motivation we need to kickstart the movement towards 100 percent electric buildings powered by 100 percent renewable energy state-wide.” 

“Pennsylvanians deserve to know that the systems that keep us warm, provide us with hot water and run our appliances aren’t producing dangerous emissions that threaten our safety both inside and outside of our homes,” said Emma Horst-Martz, Advocate with PennPIRG Education Fund. 

State Representative Elizabeth Fiedler (D-Philadelphia) echoed their sentiments: “Every day we fail to act, brings us closer to the unimaginable. To protect our families’ health and the environment that surrounds us, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A robust plan to electrify public buildings and homes across the Commonwealth would do just that — and create jobs right in our communities. By utilizing advances in efficient, electric technologies, we can protect public health and the environment.”

This report comes as pro-fossil fuel members of the Pennsylvania state legislature are pushing a policy that would prevent local municipalities from banning new gas hookups. And only weeks after news surfaced that Philadelphia’s publicly-owned gas utility, PGW has actively lobbied against building codes that would curb the use of gas.

But those on the call stressed that a better vision for the Commonwealth is possible. "With the political will, a clean energy future is 100% attainable for Pennsylvania," said state Representative Danielle Friel Otten (D-Chester County), who serves as co-chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Climate Caucus. "Electrifying our homes and commercial buildings would result in an enormous reduction in CO2 emissions and help protect our public health and our environment. I will continue to work with my colleagues to push for policies that help facilitate the transition to electrification for businesses and homeowners. The time for climate action is now."

In addition to highlighting states that have the most to gain from banning fossil fuels in homes and businesses, the study also analyzes the potential national benefits from this change. Electrifying a majority of our American homes and businesses by 2050 could reduce overall net emissions from America’s residential and commercial sectors by over 300 million metric tons, which is equivalent to taking about 65 million cars off the road.

This will not only help us tackle climate change, but also protect Pennsylvanians’ health. “Burning fossil gas releases hazardous air pollutants linked to respiratory, cardiovascular disease and even dementia,” said Dr. Walter Tsou, board member with Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Electricity releases no air pollution. Which energy source should power your home, especially if you have kids? All electric is a ‘no brainer’.” 

“Building electrification and energy efficiency are a vital part of a cost-effective and equitable transition to a decarbonized, clean grid,” said Erin Cosgrove, Public Policy Manager of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships. “Governor Wolf has already shown great leadership by entering Pennsylvania into RGGI and setting renewable energy goals for the state government’s electricity. To continue this leadership, it is important that Pennsylvania consider implementing energy efficiency and building electrification policies identified in Electric Buildings as even small steps can lead to big change.”

Electric Buildings also emphasizes the role such electric technologies as heat pumps, water heaters and other electric appliances like induction stoves can play in moving 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” Cardoni said. “Today, a similar technological revolution is underway to replace fossil fuel heating and cooking with electric technologies. The sooner America makes the switch, the sooner we’ll realize the benefits of cleaner, healthier, and more efficient energy.”

A recording of the news conference can be viewed in its entirety on PennEnvironment’s Facebook page.

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PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center is 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. For more information, visit www.PennEnvironmentCenter.org

PennPIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful interests that threaten our health, safety, and wellbeing. To learn more, visit our website at www.pennpirgedfund.org