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JEC Hearing: Electrification of Homes, Buildings Key to Addressing Climate Change, Promoting Shared Prosperity

Yesterday, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) held a hearing titled “Examining the Economic Benefits of Electrifying America’s Homes and Buildings.” The hearing explored how residential and building electrification is critical to addressing climate change and advancing economic growth that is stronger, stable, and broadly shared. Vice Chair Martin Heinrich (D-NM) presided.

Climate change becomes more deadly and costly every year, and the economic impact is disproportionately borne by low-income families and marginalized communities. There is immediate need to engage in easily deployed, scalable climate action, and in the United States, where American households account for 42% of energy-related carbon emissions, residential and building electrification is one of the surest, most cost-effective solutions.

Electrification of homes and businesses will reduce the burden of energy costs for families and businesses and improve public health and safety. Energy cost burdens are typically highest for lower-income Americans, especially those in rural areas, and electric appliances are consistently cheaper than alternatives. Electric appliances also protect against the health risks associated with burning fossil fuels.

By investing in low-carbon technologies and industries, like electrification, Congress can combat climate change and promote shared prosperity.

Witnesses included Mr. Ari Matusiak, Chief Executive Officer at Rewiring America; Dr. Leah Stokes, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Mr. Donnel Baird, Founder and CEO at BlocPower LLC.

Vice Chair Heinrich said:

“These new electric appliances will be much more efficient than the fossil fuel-powered machines they are replacing. And that means significant savings for these families on their monthly utility bills. Those savings can make an enormous difference for a family living paycheck to paycheck.

“And, importantly for our climate, all of these electrified machines can be powered by all the new clean and carbon pollution-free electricity that we will generate in our new clean energy economy. This is how we can power our long-term economic recovery and save families money by solving our pressing climate challenge.

“This is how we can build back better.”

Read Vice Chairman Heinrich’s full opening statement here.

Chairman Beyer said:

“Electrifying homes and buildings is an important component of addressing the existential threat of climate change. The benefits of electrification go beyond the environmental and health benefits of lower global temperatures. These technologies help reduce residential energy costs, which boosts household disposable income—a boon to local businesses across the country—and improve public health outcomes.

“The scale of the challenges our planet is facing as a result of climate change is great. We must take this opportunity to deploy every tool at our disposal to meet the moment. Investments in electrification technologies can – and should – be part of that solution.”

Read Chairman Beyer’s full opening statement here.

Mr. Ari Matusiak said:

“There are 121 million households in America. In order to get to zero emissions by 2050, we have calculated America must replace or install one billion machines across all of those households in that timeframe. The timeframe is important, because these machines last for a long time: 10 to 25 years, on average. Every time a water heater needs replacement in America, it presents an opportunity to install an efficient, electric heat pump alternative. Every time that opportunity is missed, we put further pressure on hitting our 2050 target. Every machine counts.

“…We do not need to wait on any moonshot technology: it has all already been invented. We do not need to ask Americans to sacrifice or change their lifestyles to survive: indeed, their lives will improve with efficient, electric appliances and equipment.”

Read Mr. Matusiak’s full testimony here.

Dr. Leah Stokes said:

“Building electrification represents a significant opportunity to cut energy bills for American households, and reduce this income and racial inequality. According to modeling by Rewiring America, more than 103 million households (85%) could save money on energy bills by installing a modern electric appliance, saving roughly $360 per year on average. Forty-five million of these households are low-to-moderate income, for which energy bills represent a significant portion of household spending. Overall, the average US household could save $2500 if an appropriate policy mix is put in place to support electrification, with some households saving as much as $4000.”

Read Dr. Stokes’ full testimony here.

Mr. Donnel Baird said:

“Electrification can save families money and create jobs in urban America and rural America. We can train the high skilled tech-enabled construction workers that our country needs. Not just to electrify buildings, but to build new homes and install new infrastructure across America. We can make our houses smart, and electric, and responsive to a modern smart grid, so that we can protect ourselves from climate disasters.

“America should lead the world in innovation, in manufacturing and workforce to convert the world’s buildings to renewable electricity. Congress can and should help ensure America is positioned to lead in that market.”

Read Mr. Baird’s full testimony here.