Buildings, especially older and inefficient ones, are responsible for 31 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. This not only contributes to climate change but also burdens occupants with high utility bills. And poor individuals are the hardest hit.
On September 21, the US Climate Alliance, a group of 25 governors representing half of the nation’s population, unveiled a major initiative to reduce emissions, lower utility costs, and create jobs. The Climate Alliance aims to quadruple heat pump utilization in buildings.
Reaching this ambitious goal requires installing 20 million new heat pumps by 2030. The governors want 40 percent of these heat pumps to go to low-income individuals, particularly racial minorities.
Each state in the alliance has unique tasks and goals to achieve the heat pump target, such as adopting zero-emissions standards for space and water heaters.
It’s worth noting that some states are ahead of the game. Maine, for example, achieved its goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps two years ahead of schedule. This transition is “curbing our carbon emissions, cutting costs for families, and making people more comfortable in their homes,” according to Maine governor Janet Mills.
The initiative is supported by funding and incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. It builds upon existing measures to increase energy efficiency in older buildings, such as tax credits for consumers transitioning from fossil fuel appliances to electric ones.
Additionally, the Biden administration recently announced rebates totaling $8.8 billion for energy-efficiency retrofits in low- and moderate-income households.
Why heat pumps are awesome
Electric heat pumps are a more energy-efficient option for heating and cooling homes. According to Grist, heat pumps result in a 45 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to gas furnaces.
To meet the Biden administration’s goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, it has been suggested that 2.38 million of these devices need to be purchased in the next three years. Although only 16 percent of American homes use heat pumps, there is a concerted effort to increase their adoption.
Stephen Porder, an ecology professor at Brown University, advocates for heat pumps. Since putting a heat pump in his house in 2014, Porder has cut his energy bill in half and his CO2 emissions by three-quarters.
However, finding enough skilled workers to install these heat pumps remains a challenge. Alongside the push for heat pump adoption, the White House aims to create domestic manufacturing and energy efficiency jobs.
To address the shortage of skilled workers, the American Climate Corps workforce program is being established to provide the personnel needed for retrofits and installations. The administration is engaging with the national sheet metal workers’ union to develop apprenticeship programs and other pathways for workers to enter the energy efficiency sector.
To achieve its goal of widespread heat pump installation, the Biden administration will require tens of thousands of workers to install these devices door-to-door.
Image Sources: The Daily BS and Bo Snerdley, https://shorturl.at/bEV19