When you think of California’s clean energy goals, your first thought might be shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy. But retrofitting and energy efficiency upgrades should not be overlooked.
In a recently published scientific paper co-authored by TEC’s Director of Policy and Planning, Marc Costa, and various environmental and public health experts from UCLA, findings showed that there are multiple benefits to focusing on residential electrification retrofits, particularly within disadvantaged communities (DACs). The study simulated different electrification scenarios, such as installing energy efficient central cooling and heating systems or converting gas appliances to electric ones.
In all scenarios, residential electrification paired with solar and storage for DACs offset hourly and monthly peak load times, especially during more extreme summer weather when peak load on the grid would be at its limits. Residential electrification within DACs can clearly advance the state’s ambitious climate goals, and the paper showed it can vastly improve the environmental health of these communities as well.
DACs are often on the frontlines for not only climate change’s long term shifts in extreme weather, but also immediate nearby pollution. This is often due to fossil fuel powered electricity plants or fossil fuel emitting industries within or adjacent to these neighborhoods. In addition to environmental pollution, household appliances like gas stoves and gas heaters, which are more commonly found in DAC households, emit pollutants into household air that can harm residents’ health. In all of the paper’s simulation scenarios, electrification greatly decreased both household pollution and environmental pollution. Electrified and energy efficient technology with solar and storage, after all, puts less strain on the power grid, decreasing reliance on fossil fuel powered electricity plants. Less gas appliances also generally means less immediate air pollutants.
It is imperative that we put DACs front and center in clean energy policies and planning as the paper suggests: “If we rightly acknowledge that the residents of DVCs have been disproportionately burdened by the historical development and operations of the energy system, then we must similarly accept that this harm can only be undone by disproportionate future investments”.
Bolstering access to clean energy sources and energy efficiency technologies not only benefits our statewide climate goals, but also greatly benefits the wellbeing of historically overlooked communities, which is simply the right thing to do.
Read the full paper here.