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Report: U.S. has become a global leader in movement to eliminate pollution from buildings
New report shows how building decarbonization movement is driving innovation in all-electric appliances while improving health, safety, and quality of life for millions of Americans
In less than four years, the movement to eliminate pollution from buildings has prompted societal-scale changes and technological innovations that have swept across the U.S., forever changing the spaces in which Americans live, work and play. That’s according to a new report from the Building Decarbonization Coalition. Innovation Acceleration: How building decarbonization has transformed the U.S. building sector in just four years tells how a combination of bold policy actions and monumental shifts in public perceptions and consumer preferences is taking place from coast-to-coast.
Four years after Berkeley, Calif., became the first city in the U.S. to require 100%-electric new construction, one in every five Americans lives in an area that has passed a policy requiring or encouraging building electrification. 98 municipalities and four states have adopted these policies, and more are in the progress of doing so this year. Millions of residents will be able to tap into incentives to electrify their homes passed in the landmark Inflation Reduction Act starting this year.
“All-electric buildings create a better quality of life, eliminate a harmful source of air pollution from our neighborhoods and communities, and slash a significant portion of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions,” said Panama Bartholomy, Executive Director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition. “We’ve made huge strides in a short amount of time. Our next goal is to ensure that the benefits of building electrification reach every community in America. Every household should get to experience the amazing efficiency of a heat pump that also provides cooling, and the joy of cooking on induction cooktops.”
The report examines the widespread building decarbonization policy adoption that’s happening at the local, state, and federal level, as well as the real-world impacts that it’s created. To meet the explosion in consumer demand, manufacturers are scrambling to ramp up production while innovators are rolling out new technology for household electric appliances, such as new models of cold-climate heat pumps or battery-powered induction stoves. In 2022 we saw significant technological advances in water heating that allow for easy plugin and avoid costly electrical upgrades. We also saw a proliferation of appliances that are able to store energy while electricity is plentiful on the grid, and reduce electricity demand while the grid is under stress. This type of innovation will only continue to grow as states like California implement plans to stop selling fossil fuel heating appliances before 2030.
The report’s topline findings include:
- For every month of 2022, heat pump shipments outpaced gas furnaces, signaling American households’ strong preference for all-electric space heating and cooling over gas.
- In 2022, for the first time in U.S. history, more households use electricity for heating than gas. Thirty years ago, only 25% of homes used electric heating. That number is surging thanks to heat pumps’ explosion in popularity and advanced efficiency compared with older electric heating options. The U.S. now ranks second in the world in growth of heat pump sales, trailing only Europe.
- In January 2023, charged political debate over gas stove pollution and its link to childhood asthma triggered an avalanche of media coverage throughout the nation. It created another ripple effect—unprecedented consumer interest in induction cooktops. Google search interest for induction hit an all-time peak that month.
The report includes the BDC’s comprehensive policy recommendations for how to expand the benefits of building electrification to more communities nationwide. The recommendations call for accelerating an equitable and just transition to clean energy that protects ratepayers. This includes ending subsidized expansion of the gas system, implementing neighborhood-scale decarbonization that geographically decommissions portions of the gas system as customers switch to all-electric, phasing out the use of gas in new buildings, and winding down the sale of gas appliances.
“As a result of switching their homes to be all-electric, millions of people are experiencing better indoor and outdoor air quality, lower energy costs, and more comfortable living spaces,” said Johanna Partin, Deputy Director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition. “As our momentum grows, we can’t leave anyone behind. Lower-income households and communities of color should be first to electrify, and we must gear our funding and programs to address pollution burdens and affordability. We will work diligently and plan carefully for an equitable and just transition to clean energy.”