Strategic electrification encompasses a host of solutions aimed at decarbonizing Earth’s atmosphere, decreasing pollution and reducing the costs of modern comfort and technology. Also known as “beneficial electrification”, this movement requires increased energy efficiency and end uses powered with electricity from cleaner grids and renewable sources.
The movement will transform both the built environment and society’s modes of transportation. Despite the complexity of its challenges, strategic electrification can no longer be dismissed as a niche or a possibility of the far future. The movement is happening now, driven by a mix of public and private entities on various levels proceeding along voluntary and mandatory paths.
What Is Being Done?
In the absence of formal federal action on climate change — including the Clean Power Plan and Paris Accord — cities, states, municipalities and utilities are continuing to develop their own decarbonization strategies.
There are now nearly 450 cities in the U.S. that have committed to 80% carbon reductions by 2050
The goal is to achieve this through a variety of policy mandates such as taxes, building codes and portfolio standards. This is in addition to voluntary approaches that can include utility rebates and construction decisions such as choosing a passive house design; updated building efficiency targets; system-specific electric mandates; and comprehensive gas bans.
Just recently, Santa Cruz became the 30th city or county in California to enact a measure limiting or prohibiting the use of natural gas in new construction, according to an article published by Yale Environment 360.
The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance
Many organizations have rallied around these strategies. For instance, the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA) is one of the many organizations that have rallied around the strategies that must be employed to reach carbon neutrality.
CNCA is a collaboration of leading global cities working to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-100% by 2050 or sooner. They’ve adopted some of the most aggressive GHG reduction targets undertaken anywhere by any city.
Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US was one of the organization’s first HVAC participants, providing expertise and product knowledge to support their continued efforts. Major CNCA cities include New York City, NY, San Francisco, CA and Washington, DC.
If We Don’t Electrify, How Could That Impact the Environment?
Cities are working aggressively to reduce fossil fuel use because our CO2 levels are trending in a dangerous direction. As a naturally-occurring greenhouse gas (GHG), CO2 helps earth retain enough warmth to sustain life but too much can lead to excessive warming.
If our global energy demand grows and we continue to use fossil fuels in the same way, the average amount of atmospheric CO2 will likely exceed 900 ppm by the year 2100
For 800,000 years, before the Industrial Revolution and the widespread adoption of fossil fuel-burning technologies, the highest global average atmospheric amount of CO2 was 300 parts per million (ppm), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 407 ppm is the current average amount, per a trend report published by the Global Carbon Project.
The NOAA also reports that if our global energy demand grows and we continue to use fossil fuels in the same way, the average amount of atmospheric CO2 will likely exceed 900 ppm by the year 2100.
As atmospheric CO2 increases, the global temperature also increases, potentially reaching 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052. At this temperature, the majority of climate scientists expect environmental changes to include rising sea levels, increased flooding, droughts, extreme heat, wildfires and new risks to human lives, infrastructure and biodiversity.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, buildings (residential and commercial) account for nearly 40% of the nation’s total energy demand — and about 75% of all electricity use.
Where Does The HVAC Industry Fit In?
Worldwide, all-electric heat pumps are the most popular technology for decarbonizing heating and cooling.
VRF heat pumps and heat-recovery systems contribute to lower carbon footprints and benefit strategic electrification by reducing overall costs for commercial building owners, consumers and society. Instead of burning fossil fuels, a VRF heat pump provides heating to zones by introducing ambien heat its outdoor unit extracts from the air or a nearby water source. During cooling, VRF heat pumps reverse this process as indoor units transfer heat from zones to the outdoor unit which then rejects the heat.
Until recently, some specifiers in northern regions felt obligated to select a gas-powered furnace or electric resistance for heating systems due to air-source heat pump derating at sub-freezing temperatures. Today that’s not the case.
Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US' SUZ universal outdoor unit uses Hyper-Heating INVERTER technology
Air-source VRF systems now use advances such as flash-injection technology in the compressor to offer unprecedented levels of capacity and efficiency at low outdoor ambient temperatures. This creates opportunities to replace fossil-fuel-burning equipment in more regions than before.
VRF heat pumps and heat-recovery systems help building owners, architects and engineers solve challenges associated with decarbonizing the electric grid as well as emerging building codes, standards and legislation related to decarbonization. Federal standards and programs like ENERGY STAR®, tax credits and utility rebates will continue accelerating adoption of energy-efficient alternates to fossil fuel burning systems.
The Decarbonization Challenge
The decarbonization challenge is significant and complex, but change is happening now. At Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US, we’re passionate because we recognize the dangers of climate change and acknowledge the significant role we can play in decarbonization efforts.
The decarbonization challenge is significant and complex, but change is happening now
Legislation, codes, financial incentives, product innovations and environmental advocacy encourage the transition from fossil-fuel-burning equipment and will continue to evolve. We’re doing our part by researching, developing, manufacturing and providing training for the all-electric heat pumps and VRF systems that enable society to enjoy improved comfort while reducing both costs and carbon emissions.
Ultimately, strategic electrification can only be successful if it’s associated with personal comfort and prosperous communities.