To prevent air and water pollution and the worst impacts of global warming, America must move toward meeting its energy needs with 100 percent renewable energy. Getting there will require that we get the most out of every bit of energy we use – and that we end the burning of fossil fuels in our homes and commercial buildings.

Wind and solar power are rapidly replacing dirty fossil fuels like coal as leading sources of our electricity.[1] As our electricity grid becomes cleaner, replacing the direct burning of fossil fuels like gas, heating oil and propane in our buildings will reduce climate change and air pollution. 

New and improved technologies are putting clean, efficient electric space heating, water heating and appliances within the reach of most American households. Unfortunately, common barriers, including knowledge gaps and high upfront costs, often make the decision to switch from fossil fuels to electricity challenging for many homeowners and businesses.

Local, state and federal governments should take the next step toward repowering America with 100 percent renewable energy by accelerating the transition of our homes and businesses away from fossil fuels and toward electric power. Adopting smart public policies to encourage electrification of buildings, energy efficiency improvements, and installation of distributed renewable energy sources such as solar photovoltaic panels and solar hot water systems can help the nation to achieve the goal of ending the direct burning of fossil fuels by mid-century.

Electric technologies can repower America’s buildings and open the door to renewable energy. Today’s electric technologies can meet nearly all our home and business energy needs – and often do so at a competitive cost and with a fraction of the pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion.   

Energy efficiency, energy storage and small-scale renewable energy technologies like solar power can help maximize the benefits of electrifying our buildings.  



Common barriers – including lack of knowledge and insufficient incentives – are slowing the electrification of America’s buildings.

Policymakers at the local, state and federal levels should implement policies to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean electricity in our buildings.

[*] Actual emissions associated with fossil fuel use in buildings are likely much higher, as this figure does not account for the impact of leaked methane during the production and transmission of natural gas.

[1] Rob Sargent, Jonathan Sundby and Gideon Weissman, Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group, Renewables on the Rise 2019, August 2019, downloaded at https://frontiergroup.org/reports/fg/renewables-rise-2019.

[2] U.S. Energy Information Administration, One in Four U.S. Homes is All Electric, 1 May 2019, archived at  http://web.archive.org/web/20190923052739/https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=39293.

[3] U.S. Energy Information Administration, Use of Energy Explained: Energy Use in Homes, 28 September 2018, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190925011236/https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/use-of-energy/commercial-buildings.php; U.S. Energy Information Administration, Use of Energy Explained: Energy Use in Commercial Buildings, 28 September 2018, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190925011236/https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/use-of-energy/commercial-buildings.php.

[4] Environmental Protection Agency, Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data Explorer, accessed on 18 October 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20191125132550/https://cfpub.epa.gov/ghgdata/inventoryexplorer/; total U.S. emissions: Environmental Protection Agency, Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, accessed on 18 October 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20191125140351/https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissi... car equivalent: calculated by dividing 533 million metric tons by the EPA estimate for annual emissions from a typical passenger vehicle (4.6 metric tons). EPA source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle, accessed on 10 October 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20191125140508/https://www.epa.gov/greenvehi....

[v] Fossil fuel use reduction: calculated by taking total estimated direct fossil fuel consumption in 2050 for transportation, industry and buildings sector (45.83 quads) and dividing by reductions in fossil fuel consumption in the buildings sector (10.23 quads); Source: Daniel Steinberg et. al, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Electrification & Decarbonization: Exploring U.S. Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Scenarios with Widespread Electrification and Power Sector Decarbonization, July 2017, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190926165518/https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy17osti/68214.pdf.

[vi] Environmental Protection Agency, Introduction to Indoor Air Quality, accessed on 19 September 2019, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190730141940/https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/introduction-indoor-air-quality; Heart disease and carbon monoxide: ScienceDaily, “Carbon Monoxide May Cause Long-lasting Heart Damage,”29 January 2008, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20150711154139/http://www.sciencedaily.com:80/releases/2008/01/080129125412.htm; Nitrogen dioxide and heart disease: Thomas Bourdrel et. al, “Cardiovascular effects of air pollution,” Archives of Cardiovascular Diseases, 110(11):634-642, DOI: 10.1016, November 2017, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20191125140646/https://www.sciencedirect.com... Respiratory function and gas cooking: D. Jarvis et. al, “The association of respiratory symptoms and lung function with the use of gas for cooking. European Community Respiratory Health Survey,” European Respiratory Journal, 11(3):651-658, March 1998, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190919192422/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p... Formaldehyde and cancer: Environmental Protection Agency, Facts About Formaldehyde, accessed on 19 September 2019, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20191014212947/https://www.epa.gov/formaldehyde/facts-about-formaldehyde.

[vii] U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey Data, 2017, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190630014648/https://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/index.php.

[viii] U.S. Department of Energy, Heat Pump Systems, accessed on 11 October 2019, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20191112070437/https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/heat-and-cool/heat-pump-systems.

[ix] Jacob Corvidae, Michael Gartman and Alisa Petersen, Rocky Mountain Institute, The Economics of Zero-Energy Homes, 2019, downloaded at https://rmi.org/insight/economics-of-zero-energy-homes/.

[x] Heat pump efficiency: Comfort365, Frequently Asked Questions, accessed on 19 September 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20191125141341/http://wepowr.com/bouldercomf... Gas and oil efficiency: Stafor, COP - Coefficient of Performance, accessed on 19 September 2019, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20181021075929/http://www.stafor.lv:80/gb/ion....

[xi] Neil Kolwey and Howard Geller, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Benefits of Heat Pumps for Homes in the Southwest, June 2018, accessed at http://www.swenergy.org/data/sites/1/media/documents/publications/documents/Heat%20pump%20study%20FINAL%202018-06-18.pdf.

[xii] Paul Hope, Consumer Reports, Pros and Cons of Induction Cooktops and Ranges, 13 June 2018, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190910074118/https://www.consumerreports.or....

[xiii] Note: In many cases it can make sense to retrofit a building that uses an inefficient form of space heating – such as oil, propane of electric resistance. See Merrian Borgeson and Emily Levin, National Resource Defense Council, Driving the Market for Heat Pumps in the Northeast, 21 February 2018, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190723164707/https://www.nrdc.org/experts/merrian-borgeson/driving-market-heat-pumps-northeast.

[xiv] Surveyed cities were Oakland, CA, Houston, TX, Providence, RI and Chicago, IL. Climate zones were from Building America. Climate zones: See Figure 1, Michael C. Baechler, Theresa L. Gilbride, Pam C. Cole, Marye G. Hefty, and Kathi Ruiz, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Guide to Determining Climate Regions by County, August 2015, accessed at https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/10/f27/ba_climate_region_gu... Cities: Sherri Billimoria, Leia Guccione, Mike Henchen and Leah Louis-Prescott, Rocky Mountain Institute, The Economics of Electrifying Buildings, 2018, downloaded at https://rmi.org/insight/the-economics-of-electrifying-buildings/.

[xv] Sherri Billimoria, Leia Guccione, Mike Henchen and Leah Louis-Prescott, Rocky Mountain Institute, The Economics of Electrifying Buildings, 2018, downloaded at https://rmi.org/insight/the-economics-of-electrifying-buildings/. Note: The Rocky Mountain institute ran analysis of various new construction and retrofit scenarios in Oakland, CA, Houston, TX, Providence, RI, and Chicago, IL.

[xvii] Eric Wilson, Craig Christensen, Scott Horowitz, Joseph Robertson, and Jeff Maguire, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Efficiency Potential in the U.S. Single-Family Housing Stock, December 2017, accessed at https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy18osti/68670.pdf.

[xviii] Prices falling: Ran Fu, David Feldman, and Robert Margolis, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark: Q1 2018, November 2018; Lazard, Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis Version 12.0, November 2018, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20191013052337/https://www.lazard.com/media/4... John Weaver, “New record low solar power price? 2.175¢/kWh in Idaho,” PV Magazine, 27 March 2019, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20191112024014/https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2019/03/27/idaho-seeks-record-low-solar-power-price-2-175%c2%a2-kwh/.

[xix] Cole Latimer, “Too Much of a Good Thing: Solar Power Surge Is Flooding the Grid,” Sydney Morning Herald, 6 June 2018, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20180616065958/smh. com.au/business/the-economy/too-much-of-a-good-thingsolar-power-surge-is-flooding-the-grid-20180606-p4zjs7.html; Ivan Penn, “California Invested Heavily in Solar Power. Now There’s So Much That Other States Are Sometimes Paid to Take It,” Los Angeles Times, 22 June 2017, archived at http://web. archive.org/web/20181023024952/www.latimes.com/projects/ la-fi-electricity-solar/.

[xx] U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Star, Energy Star Home Tips, accessed on 24 September 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190809124344/https://www.energystar.gov/products/energy_star_home_tips.

[xxi] Energy storage: Arina Anisie and Francisco Boshell, International Renewable Energy Agency, Behind-the-Meter

Batteries, 2019, accessed at https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2019/Sep/IRENA_BTM_Batteries_2019.pdf?la=en&hash=86DF5CFBEDB71EB9A00A5E3680D72D6E346BD23A; Demand response: U.S. Department of Energy, Benefits of Demand Response in Electricity Markets and Recommendations for Achieving Them, February 2006, accessed at https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/oeprod/DocumentsandMedia/DOE_Benefits_of_Demand_Response_in_Electricity_Markets_and_Recommendations_for_Achieving_Them_Report_to_Congress.pdf.

[xxii] Elizabeth Noll and Meg Waltner, Natural Resources Defense Council, Strong U.S. Energy Efficiency Standards: Decades of Using Energy Smarter, 8 December 2014, archived at http://

[xxiii] Jeff Deason et al, U.S. Department of Energy, Electrification of Buildings and Industry in the United States: Drivers, Barriers, Prospects, and Policy Approaches, March 2018, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20180516204646/http://ipu.msu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/LBNL-Electrification-of-Buildings-2018.pdf.

[xxvi] David Roberts, “Most American homes are still heated with fossil fuels. It’s time to electrify,” Vox, 2 July 2018, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20191125144755/https://www.vox.com/energy-an....

[xxvii] Emily Deruy, “San Jose set to become largest U.S. city to enact natural gas ban,” The Mercury News, 17 September 2019, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20190917191322/https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/09/17/san-jose-could-become-largest-u-s-city-to-enact-natural-gas-ban/.

[xxviii] Zero Net Energy: Steven Winter Associates, National Institute for Building Sciences, Net Zero Energy Buildings, 2 August 2016, accessed at https://www.wbdg.org/resources/net-zero-energy-buildings; Zero Net Carbon: World Green Building Council, What is Net Zero? Accessed on 13 November 2019 at https://www.worldgbc.org/advancing-net-zero/what-net-zero.

[xxix] Federal: U.S. Department of Energy, Tax Incentives for Energy Efficiency Upgrades in Commercial Buildings, accessed on 24 September 2019 at https://www.energy.gov/eere/buildings/tax-incentives-energy-efficiency-upgrades-commercial-buildings; State: Tonya Moreno, The Balance, State Tax Breaks for Energy, 25 August 2018, archived at http://web.archive.org/web/20190502094500/https://www.thebalance.com/state-tax-breaks-for-energy-3193337.

[xxx] U.S. Department of Energy and North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, Renewable Energy Property Tax Exemption – Indiana, accessed on 9 October 2019 at https://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program/detail/54.

[xxxi] New York City: Yaniv Vardi, “Making Sense of Building Requirements and Opportunities in NYC,” Greentech Media, 4 October 2017, accessed at https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/making-sense-of-building-requirements-and-opportunities-in-nyc#gs.6htw1r; Austin: City of Austin, Energy Conservation Audit and Disclosure Ordinance, 31 May 2019, accessed at https://austinenergy.com/ae/energy-efficiency/ecad-ordinance/energy-conservation-audit-and-disclosure-ordinance.

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