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New report: By electrifying all its buildings, Illinois could reap tremendous health and climate benefits
Illinois ranks 4th in the nation for potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and 3rd in potential reduction of gas usage, according to a new report released today by Illinois PIRG Education Fund, Environment Illinois Research & Education Center, and Frontier Group. The study, Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, found that completely repowering Illinois’ homes and businesses with electricity by 2050 would result in emissions reductions of 16.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — equal to taking over 3.4 million cars off the road — and reductions in pipeline gas usage equal to 460.1 billion cubic feet.
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 has never been more straightforward to make our homes and businesses fossil fuel free and Illinois stands to gain some of the highest benefits in the country by going all-electric,” said Abe Scarr, director of Illinois PIRG Education Fund. “The possibilities we see in Illinois should give us the hope and motivation we need to kickstart the movement towards 100 percent electric buildings.”
The report comes as gas utilities are pushing various pieces of legislation that would incentivize greater spending on gas distribution infrastructure, spending that could saddle Illinois ratepayers with stranded assets as the state moves to repower buildings with clean energy. This risk of stranded assets as homes and businesses electrify is also one reason advocates are calling for reform of the troubled Peoples Gas pipe replacement program.
Along with highlighting states that have the most to gain from banning fossil fuels in homes and businesses, the study also analyzed the potential national benefits from this change. Electrifying a majority of America’s homes and businesses by 2050 could reduce overall 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 highlights the role such electric technologies as heat pumps, water heaters and induction stoves can play in moving away from fossil fuels. Advances in electrifying these goods 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,” Environment Illinois Research and Education Center association Paloma Paez-Coombe said. “Today, a similar technological revolution is underway to replace fossil fuel heating and cooking with electric technologies. Today’s 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.”
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