Build Electric Washington

Let’s phase out one of Washington’s largest sources of climate pollution— natural gas (methane) burned to heat homes and buildings—and transition to safer, more efficient and climate-friendly technologies.

Stay in the loop
It’s time to move on from methane.

Our future relies on moving our energy systems to renewables as soon as possible. Communities need bold, continued action in Washington and beyond to rapidly increase investments in fossil-free renewables.

There’s one place, though, where a huge and often-overlooked chunk of our fossil fuels go and where evidence of adverse health effects is mounting: Natural gas — which is mostly made of methane — piped into homes, offices, schools and buildings for heat is also heating the climate and contributing to respiratory disease. In fact, buildings are the fastest-growing source of climate-heating emissions in the state — which increased 50% since 1990, driven by gas appliances, even though Washington’s emissions overall grew only 10% since 1990.

Bellingham’s gas usage impacts the climate more than all of its cars

The vision we’re working towards locally and statewide: transitioning of fossil fuels for indoor heating over the next several years by setting standards for new construction, making investments in electrification, and ensuring justice in the transition for energy users and for workers.

Bellingham’s gas usage impacts the climate more than all of its cars, and gas nationwide produces more carbon emissions than coal. Gas creates over 40% of our community’s direct carbon emissions, more than all the cars on all its roads. Nationwide, gas used for electricity and heating now produces more climate pollution than coal.

Gas appliances worsen air quality both indoors and outdoors by emitting pollutants. Mutually reinforcing effects of air pollution and climate change amplify hazards, resulting in higher temperatures, more wildfires and smoke, and degradation of the health of our community. — Letter signed by 25 Washington physicians calling for clean, electric buildings

The solution is already in front of us: Build all-electric, with technology that’s proven to work in thousands of buildings like electric heat pumps, water heaters, and induction cooktops. Washington’s electric utilities are now mandated by state law to phase out all fossil fuel power sources and become 100% renewable. If natural gas was ever truly a “bridge” to renewable, fossil-free energy, we’ve certainly hit the end of that bridge.

From fracking fields to furnaces, aging gas pipelines leak methane, a heat-trapping gas over 80 times as potent as carbon dioxide. Methane from U.S. gas operations harms the climate as much as annual tailpipe emissions from about 70 million cars.

The harmful effects of gas make transitioning to all-electric buildings a great idea even if the climate crisis wasn’t a factor — from radioactive fracking waste to air pollutants released indoors when gas is burned. Numerous studies show children living in a home with a gas stove have a 42 percent
higher chance of developing asthma.

We can’t keep using gas and maintain a livable climate or healthy communities. Phasing out gas, building electric, and improving energy efficiency must occur in concert. So let’s get to work!

Learn more at BuildElectricWA.org, a growing coalition of businesses and environmental, green building, energy efficiency, and community organizations.

FAQs

Washington has led on clean energy and climate progress. Now, we can put our increasingly clean electricity to work solving our fastest-growing source of carbon pollution today: the use of gas in homes and buildings. Pollution from burning gas in furnaces, water heaters, and stoves is especially harmful for children and seniors. We need our utility and public officials to lead on pivoting our buildings and homes to use modern electric appliances that run on clean electricity — and especially ensuring access to these upgrades for communities of color already shouldering disproportionate burden of outdoor air pollution. All-electric new construction is cheaper and can be a clean economic and jobs engine for our state now and for years to come. 

  • The fossil fuel — primarily methane — that is burned in furnaces, water heaters, stoves and dryers in buildings and homes across the U.S. produces one tenth of all the carbon pollution pouring into our air. Repowering our buildings to run on clean electric appliances instead is key to stemming the worst impacts of climate change — and doing this work can support jobs in communities everywhere. 
  • In Washington state, homes and buildings are the single fastest-growing source of climate pollution, up by nearly 30 percent since 1990.
  • Two-thirds of gas nationwide comes from the fracking process, and the extraction and transport of gas releases immense amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over 20 years. Total methane pollution across U.S. gas operations impacts climate change as much as the annual tailpipe emissions from 70 million cars. 
  • Every major study on meeting our climate goals, from the United Nations to Gov. Jay Inslee’s, calls for running buildings on clean electricity rather than fossil fuels.
  • With the passage of Washington state’s 100% clean energy law this year, we’re on a pathway to getting fossil fuels out of our electricity grid. But the state does not have a similar plan for decarbonizing our buildings.
  • In addition to carbon pollution, gas burned in stoves, furnaces, water heaters and clothes dryers emits nitrogen oxides, ultrafine particles, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds — into the home from stoves and into the outdoor air from HVAC equipment. Nitrogen dioxide decreases lung function and can exacerbate and lead to the development of asthma. Fine particulates can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
  • Homes with gas stoves have up to four times the nitrogen dioxide in their indoor air than homes with electric stoves, according to a recent report  from Physicians for Social Responsibility, Rocky Mountain Institute, Mothers Out Front and Sierra Club. One hour of cooking on a gas stove produces nitrogen dioxide levels higher than the health standard for outdoor air in most homes, according to a recent study from UCLA. An analysis of studies finding that children in homes with gas stoves have a 42 percent increased risk of asthma symptoms and a 24 percent increased lifetime risk of being diagnosed with asthma.
  • Air pollution health issues disproportionately impact communities of color in Washington who are already more likely to live in areas with higher levels of outdoor air pollution.
  • Data compiled by researchers at MIT shows that outdoor combustion pollution emitted from the commercial/residential building sector in Washington is estimated to account for more premature deaths in the state each year than air pollution from any other sector, including industry and roads. The building sector in WA accounts for an estimated 579 of the 848 estimated annual total premature deaths from air pollution across all source sectors, or 68% of the total – that’s nearly three times the share of estimated premature deaths (201) due to road transportation sector air pollution in WA (2018 data).
  • Dangerous and destructive explosions from gas leaks occur all over the country, including here in Washington where three PSE workers were injured in a gas explosion in North Seattle; a major gas leak in Seattle’s University District resulted in a 12-block evacuation; and a gas explosion in March 2016 caused millions of dollars in damage and injured nine firefighters in the heart of Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood. 
  • On average, over the past 3 years (2016-2018), a gas pipeline incident has killed someone, sent someone to the hospital, and/or caused a fire and/or explosion once every 4 days nationwide. (who did this analysis?)
  • The risk of earthquakes in Western Washington increases concern, as highly pressurized gas pipelines run a high risk of exploding during earthquakes and of causing fires. All-electric buildings are more resilient following natural disasters as electricity can be restored more quickly than repairs can be made to ruptured gas lines.
  • Yes. The electricity powering Washington’s grid is already among the lowest-carbon in the country, about 80 percent cleaner than the national average. And our electricity in Washington is getting ever cleaner: 70% of our remaining electric sector carbon pollution will disappear when the TransAlta coal plant closes in five years. 
  • Today’s modern electric appliances run on our clean electricity and they use less energy overall than gas-fired equipment because electric is more efficient. Electric heat pump furnaces and hot water heaters are 2-4 times more energy efficient than gas-fired equipment; heat pump clothes dryers are 50-75% more efficient than typical gas dryers; and induction cooktops and electric convection ovens are more efficient than gas ranges. 
  • Today’s electric appliances are light years from the early generations of yesteryear. Cold-climate heat pumps work very well in the most wintry conditions, still delivering 85% of their rated heating capacity at temperatures as low as 5 degrees. Induction stoves provide heat up much faster than gas, provide precise temperature control and are easier to clean and safer for kids to be around.
  • Two-thirds of new construction in King County is already all-electric. Building a new all-electric home is cheaper than building a similar home with gas appliances, because of the cost savings of not having to run gas distribution lines or put in gas meters, piping and venting. (For example, see analysis <link> in California finding savings of about $3,000-$10,000 per home, and Rocky Mountain Institute’s analysis for construction in Oakland and three other cities).
  • The electric appliances that eliminate gas-burning pollution in our homes need to be made accessible first in the communities of color already inequitably bearing the brunt of pollution generated mostly by white Americans. 
  • Across the country, people of color and communities living on lower incomes disproportionately shoulder exposure to outdoor air pollution, (additional source from UW) — and that holds true in Washington State too.
  • The inequities in air pollution exposure are associated with a host of other inequities. One recent example is highlighted by researchers at Harvard University who found that for every additional small increase in exposure to fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), the COVID-19 death rate increases by 8%. In King County, the rate of COVID-19 deaths for Hispanic/Latnix and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders is more than double that of Whites.
  • Transitioning homes and buildings to clean electric heating, water heating and cooking can sustain a significant workforce over many years. Jobs include the HVAC work — both in gas removal and electric appliance installs — as well as construction jobs associated with building modifications; and electrical work associated with new renewable energy and grid infrastructure. 
  • A study by UCLA found that the work of transitioning to electric buildings in California would require about 100,000 full-time construction jobs each year for the next 25 years. Washington would expect to see jobs numbers for our state proportional to our population and housing stock. 
  • Building fully electric buildings is cheaper because it avoids the costs of hooking up new buildings to gas lines and from using electric heat pumps, which efficiently do both heating and air conditioning together. RMI’s analysis for Oakland — a good comparison for Seattle in terms of a temperate coastal climate — found that all-electric construction saves $2,000 over 15 years. In its analysis for California, E3 found savings ranging from $3,000-$10,000. With existing buildings, RMI’s analysis for Oakland found that going with an electric heat pump for HVAC becomes cheaper than gas when also installing air conditioning, because of heat pumps’ dual role as both an efficient heat source and air conditioner. 
  • It’s especially important to stop the expansion of gas in new buildings now in order to avoid locking Washingtonians into paying for new gas infrastructure in our gas rates for many decades to come — another hardship that would be disproportionately borne by households living on lower incomes.
  • According to Washington’s Deep Decarbonization Pathway Study, the lowest cost pathway for achieving 80% carbon reductions economy-wide by 2050 relies on electrifying our buildings, reducing the residential sector’s use of gas by 85%.

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We host Activist Meetings for anyone who wants to learn more and get engaged in forwarding a clean energy transition. Contact Eddy Ury to hear about upcoming meetings.

Eddy Ury, Climate and Energy
Office: (360) 733-8307 ext. 215
Mobile: (206) 972-2001
Email: eddyu@re-sources.org

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Though climate change is a global challenge, the necessary solutions must happen at a local level. We’re going through transformative shifts in the way energy is produced, distributed, and consumed.

Renewables are booming, and Washington law requires the power grid to be fossil-free by 2045.

Electricity from solar and wind have skyrocketed in the past decade, and our region continues to be a hub for clean energy projects. Let’s tap into our increasingly renewable grid by choosing electric power instead of burning fossil fuels to heat buildings, and stop digging the hole deeper with new gas infrastructure — which locks us into decades of future fracked gas use.

Even with our current fossil fueled-power supply in Washington State, swapping out gas appliances for electric ones is a huge climate win, reducing the average household’s climate footprint by 50%the equivalent of completely giving up your car. The lowest-cost way to meet Washington’s commitment to 80% lower carbon emissions by 2050 relies on electrifying our buildings

Gas causes respiratory problems and puts communities at risk

Homes with gas stoves have 50% to over 400% higher nitrogen dioxide levels in their indoor air than homes with electric stoves, which can lead to heart failure and asthma. Children in homes with gas stoves have a 42% increased risk of asthma symptoms.

There were 1,411 significant gas incidents from 2010 to 2019 — roughly one every three days — killing 109 people, seriously injuring 606 more, and causing over $3.5 billion in property damage, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration.

Wind and solar power generation employed more than 460,000 American workers, more than twice as many jobs as for coal and gas-power.

Moving to all-electric homes is a matter of equity

Just as utilities, cities and our state have led for cleaning up our electricity generation, we need them to lead on access to clean electric appliances — to equitably address the health impacts from burning gas indoors.

Indoor air quality issues can be particularly significant for low-income residents in smaller homes with gas appliances and inadequate ventilation.

Gas extraction often takes place on or near tribal or First Nations lands, creating health and safety risks for those indigenous communities, polluting groundwater and contributing to earthquakes.

Building electric means good-paying jobs

At the start of 2020, wind and solar power generation employed more than 460,000 American workers, more than twice as many jobs as for coal and gas-power. In Washington, more than half of electricity generation jobs are in solar and wind. Now, we can use modern electric appliances for heating, water heating and cooking that run on our increasingly clean electricity to reduce pollution from burning methane gas. Fully electric new construction today saves thousands in upfront costs, and is cleaner and safer.

WA and Bellingham climate policy

To meet Bellingham’s and Washington’s climate change goals, we have to power more of our lives and our world with clean energy instead of polluting fossil fuels. Reducing gas used in new construction is step one.

Bellingham could become a leader in municipal climate action, with identified ambitions of meeting the community’s energy needs for heating and transportation with 100% renewable energy by 2035. The City of Bellingham adopted ten additional measures into the City’s Climate Action Plan in November 2020, including a goal for new buildings in Bellingham to be constructed with all-electric heating systems. Next, the City will develop policies and an implementation plan for achieving this goal while equitably addressing the impacts of fossil fuels like pollution from gas in homes and buildings.

See what the Bellingham Climate Action Task Force proposed in 2019.

Bellingham’s Climate Action Task Force is approaching tackling climate change with a “three-legged stool” approach that includes electrifying our buildings.
RE Sources’ work: Education and policy advocacy

Regardless of the barriers clean energy faces nationally, this Northwest Washington community has shown time and time again they will lead the way, create models and build the renewable energy future for our families’ health, the local environment and global climate. RE Sources is working with a range of stakeholders, policymakers and coalitions at the state and local levels to promote the rapid transition to renewable energy.

We’ve helped out with community events to talk about the transition to clean, electric buildings, and plan to do more. We’re engaging the public to promote fair and equitable policies to phase out the use of fossil fuels for indoor heating over the next decade by setting standards for new construction, making investments in electrification, and avoiding financial burdens in the transition for energy users and for workers.

Thankfully, Washington State’s Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) became law in 2019, requiring utilities to eliminate coal power by 2025, become carbon neutral by 2030, and phase out gas-fired power generation from our electric grid entirely by 2045. This means enormous infrastructural build-out of wind and solar power generation, distribution and storage, and innovations in grid technology and efficiency. Now it’s time to halt the expansion of gas consumption for space and water heating by constructing new buildings with all-electric appliances, and upgrading all existing homes and buildings with safe, efficient electric heating appliances over the next 20 years.

 

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