California’s buildings are a leading source of air pollution and climate-changing emissions and must be electrified for the state to meet its public health and climate goals. Making this transformational shift will require a mix of incentives, innovation, and education about all-electric technologies. A new study from the New Buildings Institute (NBI) in partnership with the Building Decarbonization Coalition (BDC) lays the groundwork for the important work ahead.
The Building Electrification Technology Roadmap (BETR) is a first-of-its-kind study focused on accelerating the adoption of highly efficient electric technologies that displace fossil fuel technologies. The study takes a comprehensive look at electrification technology options across various residential and commercial building types. The authors characterize more than three dozen technologies across technology readiness, product availability, ease of application, market awareness, and their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. BETR highlights major roadblocks facing these technologies and provides recommendations on how to accelerate market adoption.
“California’s buildings produce more smog-causing pollutants than cars,” said Panama Bartholomy, Director, BDC. “Electrification is the pathway for cleaning up our buildings sector. This report lays out a clear roadmap showing how electrification technology can help achieve public health and climate goals.”
At its core, BETR is a guide for efficiency programs, which have a 40-year history of improving energy outcomes in buildings and beyond. The study sends important signals to other stakeholders, including manufacturers, designers, and building owners. More than a dozen experts contributed to the report, which was funded by NBI, Southern California Edison, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Pacific Gas and Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and the Electric Power Research Institute.
“There is a wealth of information in BETR. Having the full suite of electrification technologies mapped out gives us a guide for where to focus these next few years to decarbonize buildings,” said David Jacot, P.E. Director of Efficiency Solutions, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
The Building Electrification Technology Roadmap: Five Key Findings
- Every major end use is ready for electrification technology. Replacing fossil fuel-based space heating, water heating, cooking, and laundry systems with efficient all-electric technologies cuts energy use by over 40% and carbon emissions by over 75% for those four end-uses across multiple California climate zones.
- Heat pumps are a clear winner on space heating and cooling. Heat pumps stand out when it comes to electrifying space heating and cooling due to their mature technology, high market awareness, and high efficiency. Heat pumps are ready and available for new construction and retrofit applications in every sector.
- Heat pump water heaters (HPWHs) offer the highest potential for rapid greenhouse gas reductions. Fossil-fuel combustion water heaters account for a whopping 40% of natural gas use in California single-family homes, according to the California Energy Commission. The state’s residential gas water heaters should be electrified by 2045. HPWHs are a decades-old, reliable technology that’s readily available for new construction, some retrofits, and multifamily applications.
- Induction cooking technology would reduce emissions while improving indoor air quality. Today’s electric induction range tops are a desirable technology to displace gas cooking. They have superior controllability, user experience, and health and safety benefits. While gas cooking accounts for just 7% of total residential gas use statewide, benefits related to improving indoor air quality makes them attractive.
- Heat pump dryers and combo washer/dryers could be game-changers. Heat pump dryers use half the energy of a standard gas burning or electric resistance dryer, according to ENERGY STAR. Combo washer/dryers (condensing dryers), which are common in Europe, are another promising laundry technology offering greenhouse gas reduction and energy savings.
“Although fuel-fired equipment in homes and buildings has a long history of meeting our needs, on-site gas combustion has a limited future,” said Cathy Higgins, NBI Research Director, who co-authored BETR with Alexi Miller, NBI Associate Technical Director. “Growing the market share of all-electric technologies can accelerate grid decarbonization. However, this transition will take time, so the sooner we get started the better.”
You can learn more about BETR and building decarbonization at a free webinar on February 25, 2021, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm PST.
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