New report: By electrifying all its buildings, New Jersey could reap tremendous health and climate benefits
New Brunswick - New Jersey ranks #9 for highest potential greenhouse gas emissions reduction from electrifying buildings in the next 30 years, according to a new report released today by Environment New Jersey, NJPIRG, and Frontier Group. The study, Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, found that completely repowering New Jersey’s homes and businesses with electricity by 2050 would result in emissions reductions of 9.5 million metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of taking more than 2 million cars off the road.
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’s time to get rid of dirty, dangerous technologies and swap them out for efficient, electric ones to ensure that New Jerseyans live cleaner, greener and all around healthier lives,” said Emma Horst-Martz, NJPIRG Advocate. “The possibilities we see in New Jersey should give us the hope and motivation we need to kickstart the movement towards 100 percent electric buildings.”
“It has never been more straightforward to make our homes and businesses fossil fuel free and New Jersey stands to gain some of the highest benefits in the country by going all-electric,” said Hayley Berliner, Clean Energy Associate for Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center.
In January of 2020 Governor Murphy unveiled the New Jersey Energy Master Plan, which stated that electrifying 90% of buildings by 2050 is essential to meet the state’s climate goals. The policy recommendations in the report from New Jersey PIRG and Environment New Jersey include:
Adopting building codes that incentivize or require electric systems in new construction
Implementing rebate programs and low-cost financing (such as CPACE)
Implementing regulatory solutions including rate design and fuel-switching regulation changes
Creating and expanding tax incentives for electrified buildings
Requiring building energy transparency and implementing building performance standards that limit carbon emissions
Educating developers, contractors, retailers and consumers about electrification
Many of these goals are reflected in the Energy Master Plan, which means New Jersey is on the right path to building electrification. However, protecting the Clean Energy Fund from the traditional raids of the past is critical to realizing these goals. Utility customers pay into the fund and deserve to see the savings, environmental and health benefits that electrification and other energy efficiency programs will bring. Governor Murphy and state legislators must ensure that this money is used properly and not designated to follow budget gaps in other areas.
New Jersey legislators are also considering legislation to update appliance efficiency standards - a policy recommendation made in the report. This is a policy solution that will not cost the state any additional funds and will help reduce energy demand as the state moves towards electrification.
“The health impacts of climate change and air pollution are irrefutable,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cerceo of Cooper University Hospital. “In the United States, 350,000 premature deaths are attributed to fossil fuel pollution. New Jersey is one of the nine states with the highest number of deaths per capita from fossil fuels. Our patients, our communities, and our families cannot wait for legislation in the future. We must move away from fossil fuel use now.”
“Building decarbonization is a key step in realizing New Jersey’s clean energy goals,” said Erin Cosgrove, Public Policy Manager, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships. “While the state has taken enormous steps in the past years with the start of statewide energy efficiency programs and re-joining RGGI, it is important to keep the momentum going. New Jersey can do this by taking steps identified in Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment including: creating all electric new construction programs; improving the workforce and market supply chain for the weatherization and heat pump workforce; and encouraging the building of net-zero and PassiveHouse homes with stretch codes. Taking these steps now will accelerate New Jersey’s building decarbonization transition, making it a regional leader.”
“Reducing carbon pollution emissions from buildings is absolutely essential to protecting the health and well-being of our children, as well as mitigating the health impacts already being experienced today by vast numbers of Americans,” said Dan Quinlan of Health Care Without Harm. “It’s time to wake up and listen to what leaders from across the health care sector have been saying for years: the climate scientists know what they are doing. Listen to them.”
“Electrifying our buildings on Rutgers campuses is a key step towards transitioning our school to 100% renewable energy,” said Tehreem Uzma, Campaign Coordinator for NJPIRG Students. “Students are organizing to fight climate change and we won’t be able to win that fight without transitioning our dorms, academic buildings, and facilities off of fossil fuels.”
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,” Horst-Martz 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 New Jerseyans are able to make the switch, the sooner we’ll realize the benefits of cleaner and more efficient energy.”
NJPIRG works to protect the public from powerful special interests when they threaten our health and safety. For more information, visit www.njpirgcenter.org.
Environment New Jersey is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. For more information, visit www.environmentnewjerseycenter.org.
NJPIRG and Environment New Jersey are part of The Public Interest Network, which runs organizations committed to our vision of a better world, a set of core values, and a strategic approach to getting things done. Learn more at www.publicinterestnetwork.org.