Distributed Energy

Destination: Decarbonization

Is building electrification the next step?

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According to scientific consensus, the future of climate stabilization depends upon the decarbonization of energy systems and the reduction of global greenhouse-gas emissions. The electrification of buildings, power industry researchers explain, is an important step on the path to decarbonization.

A European study conducted by the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project indicates that immediate action is needed in order for European countries to meet the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement. The study outlines the economic and environmental benefits of a shift to electricity in transport, buildings, and industry.

Francesco Starace, Eurelectric president and chief executive of Enel, explains that by “leveraging cost-effective renewables and developments in storage, electricity can lead to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across sectors, making the EU economy cleaner and more competitive.”

In a recent North American study, the Rocky Mountain Institute analyzed the economic and carbon emissions impacts of electrifying buildings.  It found that a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will require the elimination of CO2 produced by building furnaces and water heaters.

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“70 million American homes and businesses burn natural gas, oil, or propane on-site to heat their space and water, generating 560 million tons of carbon dioxide each year—one-tenth of total US emissions,” the study explains. “But now, we have the opportunity to meet nearly all our buildings’ energy needs with electricity from an increasingly low-carbon electric grid, eliminating direct fossil fuel use in buildings and making obsolete much of the gas distribution system—along with its costs and safety challenges.”

For the study, researchers compared electric heating to fossil-fueled heating under various electric rate structures in four cities: Oakland, CA; Houston, TX; Providence, RI; and Chicago, IL. In many scenarios, the report found that electrification of space and water heating and air conditioning not only reduced the building owner’s costs over the lifetime of the equipment, but that electric heating could be managed to shift energy consumption in time, aiding the cost-effective integration of large amounts of renewable energy onto the grid.

What are your thoughts? The electrification of buildings offers opportunities for carbon emission reduction.  Should it be considered a priority?  DE_bug_web

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  1. Electric Generation at home using diesel or natural gas is typically 6-8% less carbon intensive due to transmission and distribution.
    Natural gas or methanol fuel cells are the only home electrification approach that will result in reduced carbon per household.

  2. In the long and short run – if CC is real or if it’s not, the safest, most reliable, sustainable and most able driven is and will be nuclear,
    I’m not in support of one-offs! We need to start a supply chain heavy manufacturing system spear headed by our federal government. It would be very similar to the intervention by the Manhattan Project yet this nuclear power would be for civilian energy.
    Once a design for generation 4 including small modular design by the NRC is adopted and tested then the reactors would roll off the assembly line like Boeing 747’s!
    There is no need to destroy the viability of the current grid by making it vulnerable and even more so, less resilient with too much wind and solar. Besides, storage still isn’t there and if CC is real we do not have time to wait for storage. Nuclear has multiple cab abilities in addition to passive safety, it has capabilities to transform out of fossil fuels in short time, and not loss reliability. Industrial heat, medical isotopes, space exploration fuel, desalination of sea water to fresh…… and it even re-uses spent nuclear fuel and war heads!

  3. Look at the Finnish study for district heating.
    Nuclear can heat downtowns, industrial complexes, industrial processes; and still create electricity for AC or other uses.

  4. “Cost effective renewables” — the power of marketing terms to fool us!

    There are no “renewable” energy sources — remember high school science class and “conservation of energy”?

    The utter waste and environmental impacts of wind/solar are phenomenal — one wind generator’s steel wakes the world’s largest reactor vessel, which in turn generates ~100x the power, 24/7 for many decades, with no emissions. But that inconvenient truth is of no care for those getting subsidized to waste our planet’s resources, lands, seas and species on poorly-reliable, low power density sources of intermittent energy, perhaps because they get a subsidy from the many to the few?
    Warren Buffet admitted that a while ago… Buffet publicly stated (2014). “…on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

  5. Everything has consequences. We will always be faced with choosing the lesser of several evils. In electrification, we will have to look at attenuating the effects of electromagnetic radiation, corona forces from high tension electric transmission lines, etc. In nuclear, how do we manage the waste and exposure to radiation considering thousands of years of half-life. In fossil fuels, the carbon emission. Which of these will be most beneficial for now and far into the distant future when we are gone?

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