FAR HILLS, NJ (March 1, 2022) – A new report issued today by Acadia Center confirms that electrifying the building sector is beneficial to all New Jerseyans, making buildings healthier and safer while reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Aggressively transitioning away from fossil fuels to electric is seen as key to significantly reducing emissions from buildings – the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey.
Commissioned by New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the report, titled “The Future is Electric,” outlines the fact that while New Jersey is making strides toward clean energy, many in the state continue to burn natural gas and other fossil fuels directly in their homes, producing greenhouse gas emissions and harmful indoor air pollution. New Jersey is falling behind in achieving its building decarbonization goals compared to neighboring states, as the transition to clean, electric buildings are underway throughout the U.S. and globally.
New Jersey voters strongly support policies that advance the adoption of electric appliances in buildings, according to ReThink Energy NJ’s 7th annual “Attitudes on Clean Energy” poll conducted in late 2021.
“Building electrification is necessary to address climate change and achieve significant emission reductions by 2030 and beyond,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, ReThink Energy NJ and New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “New Jersey needs to start developing the policies and incentives necessary to advance building electrification in a way that benefits consumers, supports low and moderate-income communities, reduces harmful indoor emissions, and creates and sustains local jobs in the sale, installation and maintenance of efficient, electric appliances.”
Low-income communities and people of color are disproportionately affected by air pollution and climate change. They are more likely to suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease due to nearby pollution sources. New Jersey was listed among the ten states with the most premature deaths from air pollution in buildings directly related to gas, oil and propane, costing $2.8 billion in monetized health impacts annually. Shifting to electric appliances today would cut greenhouse gas emissions in a New Jersey home by more than half, while also improving public health.
Despite the gas industry’s attempts to delay the transition to efficient electric appliances, states like New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine are installing cold climate heat pumps, which can replace furnaces or boilers and handle the heating needs of well-insulated homes in the northeast without backup systems. Many New Jersey homeowners can dramatically reduce their energy bills by more than 50% by combining electric appliances with home weatherization measures.
“High efficiency, cold-climate air-source heat pumps can provide 100% of a home’s heating and cooling needs, even in colder climates like in Massachusetts and Maine,” said Amy Boyd, Director of Policy, Acadia Center. “Acadia Center’s new report shows that, when combined with weatherization, New Jerseyans will save money and improve local health by electrifying their homes. New Jersey can follow the framework set by fellow Northeast states to successfully, quickly and affordably switch to an electric future.”
“Heat pumps have evolved. The new generation of heat pumps save a lot more energy, work perfectly well in the dead of winter, offer greater comfort, and cost less to operate.” said William Amann, P.E., DCEP, LEED Fellow, President, M&E Engineers, Inc., and Advocacy Committee Chair, MLAB, US Green Building Council NJ.
“Residential and commercial buildings are one of New Jersey’s biggest climate polluters because of the massive amount of oil and gas that is used to power, heat, and cool them. But it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Eric Miller, Director of N.J. Energy Policy, Natural Resources Defense Council. “New Jersey can do more with less pollution by making buildings more efficient and equipped for electrification while improving public health and creating jobs.”
“Electrification of homes and businesses is essential not only for our shared future climate health but the health of vulnerable adults and children right now,” said Nicole Miller, Principal Consultant of MnM Consulting and Chair of the Newark Green Team. “With gas-fired plants polluting the air outside and gas cooking appliances polluting the air indoors, communities like Newark, where more than 25% of children have asthma, are in a position with few good options. As New Jersey has committed to reducing emissions in how we produce electricity, we need to also commit to transitioning our homes and businesses to electric appliances.”
“The electrification of our homes and buildings is one of the most impactful ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving our air quality. In addition to the air pollution caused by the fracking and transportation of natural gas, this pollution does not stop at our doorstep, it also continues in our homes even when the gas stove is off. Where there is natural gas, there will be leaking methane,” said Anjuli Ramos-Busot, NJ Director, New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. “This report provides the much-needed evidence that electrifying our appliances with home weatherization measures not only gives us healthier and more energy-efficient homes, it also gives us more affordability.”
“Over a quarter of New Jersey’s climate pollution comes from buildings,” says Mary Barber, Director of State Affairs, Environmental Defense Fund. “Acadia Centers’ new report gives New Jerseyans the information and tools they need to do their part by effectively switching their fossil-fueled appliances to electric ones for heating and cooking at home. This will save money while improving air quality for all.”
“Based on Isles’ 17 years of providing weatherization and healthy homes improvement services in Trenton, we know first-hand the problem of leaky homes, hazardous gas appliances and poor ventilation for residents who disproportionately have asthma and who can least afford to pay for high energy bills,” said Elyse Pivnick, Senior Director for Environmental Health, Isles, Inc. “Policies must change to allow electrification retrofits in our oldest, substandard housing because currently, this is not an option in New Jersey’s weatherization programs. Additionally, Isles’ ten-year-old Center for Energy and ‘Environmental Job-Training is ready to train the next generation of New Jersey’s energy efficiency workforce.”
“Burning fossil fuels in buildings is a leading cause of premature death in the state, which overwhelmingly affects Black and Brown communities. We recommend that the state end natural gas hookups for new buildings and residences by 2030,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “Acadia Center’s report confirms that we don’t have to choose between public health and affordable energy. A smart and effective way to protect the health and safety of residents and reduce utility bills is to electrify our buildings and homes,”
State Senator Andrew Zwicker, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Isles, the N.J. Green Building Council, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, Environmental Defense Fund, the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Newark Green Team joined N.J. Conservation Foundation and Acadia Center in releasing the report, and called upon the Murphy Administration and the State Legislature to make decarbonization of the building sector a priority in the state’s climate mitigation efforts.
About New Jersey Conservation Foundation
A private nonprofit based in Far Hills, New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s mission is to preserve land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. In addition to protecting over 125,000 acres of open space, farmland and parks, New Jersey Conservation promotes strong land use and clean energy policies at the local, county, state and federal levels, and provides support and technical assistance to hundreds of partner groups.
For more information about New Jersey Conservation Foundation and its programs and preserves, visit www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LANDSAVE (1-888-526-3728).
About Acadia Center
Acadia Center is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center advocates for an equitable clean energy future for Connecticut, tackling regulatory and legislative energy policy, transportation, energy efficiency, beneficial electrification, utility innovation, and renewable energy.