New report shows how electrifying Iowa’s buildings could cut carbon emissions and transform our energy system
DES MOINES -- Iowa could see a critical reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and gas usage if it electrifies all of its buildings during the next 30 years, according to a new report released Tuesday by Environment Iowa Research & Policy Center, Iowa PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The study, Electric Buildings: Repowering Homes and Businesses for Our Health and Environment, found that completely repowering Iowa’s homes and businesses with electricity by 2050 is expected to result in net emissions reductions of 3.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide -- equal to taking over 690,000 cars off the road -- and reductions in pipeline gas usage equal to 82.3 billion cubic feet.
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 has never been easier to make our homes and businesses fossil fuel free, and Iowa could see important environmental and health gains by going all-electric. Iowans deserve to know that the systems that keep them warm, provide them with hot water and run their appliances aren’t producing dangerous emissions that threaten their safety both inside and outside of our homes,” said Brynn Furey, energy conservation and efficiency associate with Environment Iowa. “The possibilities we see in Iowa should give us the hope and motivation we need to kickstart the movement towards 100 percent electric buildings.”
Despite the benefits of electrification, Iowa communities may be on the verge of losing their freedom to transition off fossil fuels. House Bill 555 would restrict local governments’ ability to limit gas use in buildings and prevent them from going all-electric -- preempting that power entirely to the state government. This legislation is part of a larger strategy by special interest groups, including gas companies, who have backed at least 19 similar bills across the country over the past two years.
“Our country has the tools we need to make our buildings fossil fuel-free and to take a vital step for reducing pollution and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change,” Furey said. “But if special interest groups have their way, many Iowans will soon live in communities that want to electrify their homes and businesses to take advantage of clean energy, but can't because the industry has tied their hands behind their back.”
In addition to state-specific data, the study identifies the national benefits from banning fossil fuels in homes and businesses. Electrifying a majority of America’s buildings by 2050 could reduce 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 also emphasizes the role such electric technologies as heat pumps, water heaters and other electric appliances like induction stoves can play as America moves away from fossil fuels. Advances in these technologies 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,” Furey said. “Today, a similar technological revolution is underway to replace fossil fuel heating and cooking with electric technologies. Current electric heat pumps offer better indoor climate control and lower operating costs than gas furnaces and the sooner Iowa makes the switch, the sooner we’ll realize the benefits of cleaner and more efficient energy.”
Environment Iowa works for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate. Our members across the state put grassroots support behind our research and advocacy. Environment Iowa is part of Environment America, a national network of 29 state environmental groups.
The Iowa Public Interest Research Group (Iowa PIRG) is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in democratic society.
Environment Iowa and Iowa PIRG are part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.