Clean Energy Transition

Sparking the clean energy transition for our communities, our region, and the climate — while there is still time to turn the tide.

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Our future relies on renewable energy. Moving our world — locally and globally — away from dangerous fossil fuels and into renewable energy solutions is critical to reduce toxic air pollution, safeguard communities, avoid devastating oil spills in the Salish Sea, and halt climate change. We need bold, continued action in Washington and beyond to enact clean energy policies and rapidly increase investments in renewables.

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

All-electric buildings: Gas is the past

(Read more in the Build Electric Bellingham tab above)

To address climate change and work toward climate 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.

Buildings are the fastest-growing source of carbon pollution in Washington state, mostly due to the emissions from burning gas in furnaces, water heaters and other gas appliances. This pollution accelerates climate change and poses significant respiratory health risks for families and communities, especially children, the elderly, and communities of color and people living on lower incomes who are already disproportionately bearing the burden of outdoor air pollutants.

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 fossil gas. All electric new construction today is cheaper, cleaner and safer.

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 pollution from homes and buildings.

Bellingham climate policy

Though climate 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.

RE Sources is advocating for ambitious, equitable approaches to transition away from fossil fuels toward clean and affordable energy sources. Decarbonization, electrification, and energy efficiency must occur in concert.

The City of Bellingham is moving to 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. See what the Bellingham Climate Action Task Force proposed in 2019.

Currently, most of Bellingham’s energy use is from fossil fuels. Buildings consume over half their energy directly from fracked methane gas, and over half of our electricity from coal and gas-power plants.

Washington State’s Clean Energy Transformation Act passed in 2019, requiring utilities to cut out coal power by 2025, become carbon neutral by 2030, and phase out fossil fuels 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. With this law on track to be implemented, the next step of the transition is to rapidly electrify our transportation and heating systems over the next 25 years.

RE Sources partnered with two Whatcom County companies — Ecotech Solar and Itek Energy — on our Washington Goes Solar! program, which successfully outfitted 40 homes and businesses with solar arrays. Ecotech and Itek then donated a panel to The RE Store for every home or business that went solar as a result of learning the benefits at our workshops. Our goal was to break down barriers for people who hadn’t realized solar was a good fit for them. Stop by The RE Store and check out the amazing bank of solar panels on our building, bringing us renewable energy even in rainy Bellingham! Learn more about Washington Goes Solar.

We aren’t currently offering this program, but hope to in the future. Sign up for our newsletters to be the first to know.

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RE Sources is an active member of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, a statewide coalition of individuals, organizations, Tribes, labor, faith communities, and businesses dedicated to reducing global warming pollution, strengthening the economy, and making sure all families have a better future. The Alliance advances statewide policy initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and build a clean energy future. Learn more at jobscleanenergywa.com.

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 — mostly gas — 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 the Obama Administration 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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Build Electric Bellingham

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

In Bellingham, burning gas — a fossil fuel in buildings and homes — is our single biggest source of climate pollution, even more than driving cars in the city. Fracked (so-called “natural”) gas creates over 40% of our community’s direct carbon emissions. Gas is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and emissions specifically from buildings increased a full 10% in 2018, driven by gas appliances.

We can’t keep using gas and maintain a stable, livable climate. But the solution is already in front of us: Build all-electric, with technology we already have at our disposal 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. So let’s get to work!

Electric heat pumps can both warm and cool a building!
As renewables grow, electric buildings are a low-cost win for households and the climate
  • Bellingham is aiming for 100% renewable energy for heating and transportation by 2035, and Washington passed a law in 2019 mandating a net-zero-carbon electricity supply by 2030. Wiring all-electric new buildings is more cost-effective than adding gas lines, and is the easiest first step to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
  • 1,300 homes and buildings already use solar in Bellingham
  • Thanks to Bellingham’s abundance of clean, low-cost electricity, 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.
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.
  • There are 11 times more clean energy jobs in Washington than in fossil fuels.
Gas is a bigger climate polluter than coal

Staying hooked on gas — over 70% of which comes from the polluting process of fracking — is not worth the costs to the climate, heightened risk of asthma and heart failure, and pollution it causes.

  • In the U.S., more carbon pollution now comes from gas than coal.
  • Washington’s buildings burn twice as much gas than all of the state’s power plants combined.
  • As gas is extracted at fracking wells and transported through miles of pipelines, there are frequent releases of methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane from U.S. gas operations harms the climate as much as annual tailpipe emissions from about 70 million cars.
Gas causes respiratory problems and puts communities at risk