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Rewiring America: the “War-time” Solution to Climate Change

NPR recently reported that the earth is currently experiencing the highest concentration of atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in roughly 4 million years. They reveal that “The newly released data about May carbon dioxide levels show that the global community so far has failed to slow the accumulation of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere,” according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report. This is very alarming news.

Carbon Dioxide is the engine behind climate change. The gas, commonly referred to as “greenhouse gas,” becomes trapped in the earth’s atmosphere and causes global warming. Anyone who is interested in alternative energy already knows this and that it’s a major problem that must be addressed in order to prevent the destabilizing and deadly effects of climate change. But how?

A Climate Imperative

Saul Griffith, the founder and chief scientist behind Rewiring America, was a recent guest on the podcast The Energy Gang (from Greentech Media). He speaks eloquently about what he calls the “war-time” imperative to change the way America powers its cars, furnaces, air conditioners, appliances, and industrial processes. These are the major contributors to CO2 emissions, and they’re all present in just about every home and office in the country. If we can move away from gas and oil fuels for these appliances, we could make an incredible impact on the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere.

“How do we really electrify everything? Nobody has had the right answer yet… but everybody is thinking about how to do this, given that we have technologies today that will work and get it done. We just need to accelerate those,” says Katherine Hamilton, President of GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic. Current approaches to this problem prioritize efficiency, changing people’s lifestyles, or implementing carbon taxes, but these solutions have been slow to take effect. Given the news that CO2 levels are higher than they’ve ever been in the span of human existence, a “war-time” solution is what’s needed.

Decarbonizing the Economy

Saul Griffin and Rewiring America believe that they know what this solution needs to be - the full electrification of American homes, businesses, and industrial facilities. In his Rewiring America Handbook, Griffin argues that “we can still address the threat of climate change, but only if we respond with a massive war-time mobilization effort to transform the fossil fuel economy into a fully electrified one, run on wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources.” It’s an ambitious idea, but Griffin backs it up with research, policy suggestions, and a fully fleshed-out plan.

As the Center for American Progress notes, “residential electrification is essential to helping limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Overall, the United States must replace more than 80 million of these appliances across more than 50 million households over the next decade.” In order to achieve this massive change, the Rewiring America plan includes incentives for American households to switch from gas to electric appliances in order to limit greenhouse gas emissions. These incentives target four major appliances - heat pump space heaters, heat pump water heaters, induction cooktops/ranges, and upgraded breaker boxes - by including consumer rebates for their purchase and installation.

Not only would consumers benefit from these incentives, the result would be appliances that are more efficient and save them money. In fact, “there are an estimated 65 million U.S. households that could together save more than $27 billion each year on their energy bills if they were using modern electric appliances today.” Consumer buy-in is vital to the plan’s success, so these incentives target American’s economic concerns instead of their desire to combat climate change (which hasn’t worked on the necessary level).

In addition, Rewiring America’s plan would create up to 25 million new, high-paying jobs in clean energy infrastructure. These would be needed in part to complete the “millions of miles of new and upgraded transmission and distribution lines to get the electricity to the end user,” Griffin writes for PV Magazine. The plan also creates manufacturing jobs, as “we’ll need to electrify our 250 million vehicles, 130 million households, 6 million trucks, all of our manufacturing and industrial processes, and 5.5 million commercial buildings covering 90 billion square feet.” It’s an ambitious plan but a global imperative, and Griffin notes that such a mobilization of effort has already occurred in America during the Second World War under dire circumstances not unlike those in the war against climate change.

Rewiring America

Under the Rewiring America plan, when paired with solar energy sources, every home or building in America could save money and do its part to decarbonize the economy and stop the proliferation of  CO2 that is threatening the stability of our climate.

At Solar Design Studio, we believe there’s a strong case to be made for all-electric homes and buildings. We’re doing our part to support a decarbonized economy by helping our clients through the transition to solar energy for their homes, offices, and industrial facilities. We work to ensure the highest possible return on investment for each project because we think consumers deserve to be rewarded for doing the right thing.

To learn more about us and how we can help make your solar dream a reality, contact us today!

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