What is it and why is it important today?
Utilities, policymakers, non- profits and the building industry have adopted the term strategic electrification to encompass a set of energy solutions aimed at reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by electrifying our building systems and vehicles, increasing our energy efficiency and powering our end uses with renewable energy.
Put simply, strategic electrification serves as a pathway to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used to generate electricity.
Put simply, strategic electrification serves as a pathway to reduce the amount of fossil fuels used to generate electricity. In 2019, actions surrounding climate change, decarbonization and strategic electrification reached a tipping point. We saw states, cities and utilities develop new policies and step up activities geared toward decarbonization and electrification. This includes new momentum for incentives to install all-electric systems like heat pumps and establish energy efficiency programs.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, buildings account for nearly 40% of the nation’s total energy demand—and about 75% of all electricity use.1 Additionally, fossil fuels negatively impact air quality with particulates and emissions other than CO2. Because of this, utilities, states, municipalities and environmental advocates widely recognize heat pumps as a primary source for electrification in the building sector. We see this reflected in all of the reports and studies on decarbonization and electrification, and this information is a powerful driver for the huge increase in heat pump installations expected in the coming years. All-electric heat pumps are part of the most sensible path forward.
At Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US (METUS), we work to contribute to the success of decarbonization efforts by constantly researching, developing, manufacturing and providing trainings for the heat pump products that are essential to decarbonizing the buildings where we live and work. We understand that electrification is a set of actions that can only be successful if everyone— and every type of building— participates. We also are working to simplify the electrification process in an effort to educate others by breaking it down into three easily digestible steps:
- Enhance efficiency of end use
- Decarbonize the electric grid through the increased use of renewable energy generation (e.g., solar, wind and water)
- Power thermal end uses like space and water heating on renewable electricity
The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA) is one of the many organizations that have rallied around the strategies that must be employed to reach carbon neutrality. The CNCA is a collaboration of leading global cities working to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-100% by 2050 or sooner—among the more aggressive GHG reduction targets undertaken anywhere. METUS was an early adopter, signing on as one of the initial HVAC partners for the alliance.
In the absence of formal federal action on climate change in the US—including the Clean Power Plan and Paris Accord—cities, states, municipalities and utilities are continuing to develop their own strategies to decarbonize. There are now more than 438 cities in the US that have committed to 80% carbon reductions by 2050. The goal is to achieve this through a variety of policy mandates such as taxes, building codes and portfolio standards. This is in addition to creative voluntary programs that can include utility rebates and construction decisions such as the growth of passive house developments.
Other organizations that want to be more involved in strategic electrification solutions can conceptualize ways to align their current efforts with this concerted strategy. They can also supplement their internal shift towards more electric-forward methods of building and construction by publicly supporting local policies that are already leading the charge.
The goal to decrease harmful emissions by 80% by 2050 is an ambitious one, but it’s in progress and proceeding along voluntary and mandatory paths. Any professional who is responsible for a facility in a state or city committed to decarbonization will need to become familiar with products and solutions for solving strategic electrification’s challenges.
By Eric Dubin, Sr. Director of Utilities and Performance Construction, Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US (METUS)
1 US Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2020, from https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=86&t=1