“All-Electric Future Comes At A Huge Cost”

Yves here. Just because a post raising concerns about the enthusiasm for electric power comes from a site called Oil Price does not make it all wet. As we and some others have stressed, the Green New Deal sells a stars and unicorns approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than stress radical conservation, or as a reader put it, “slower and simpler” as the fastest and most effective way to reduce fossil fuel use, Green New Deal advocates sell more….more new vehicles, more new infrastructure, more new housing. All this “more” has resource and energy costs. And a big chunk of that “new more better” will be built using a fair bit of current dirty energy sources.

By Tsvetana Paraskova, a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. Originally published at OilPrice

The electrification of homes is touted as one way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the residential sector as the U.S. Administration aims for a net-zero economy by 2050. But going all-electric will not be as easy as it seems.

The “electrify everything” drive comes with higher upfront and—in some cases—higher maintenance costs for consumers, higher costs for homebuilding contractors, and higher intangible costs for politicians who may prematurely call the end of gas furnaces and boilers and saddle voters with higher energy bills.

In addition, all-electric homes with electric vehicle (EV) chargers are expected to raise peak power demand, which some electric grids cannot handle as-is and would need billions of dollars of upgrades.

Emissions from the commercial and residential sectors accounted for 13 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, as per Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data. These emissions are generated primarily from fossil fuels burned for heat, the use of certain products that contain greenhouse gases, and the handling of waste.

All-electric homes have the potential to cut those emissions, but switching from natural gas and fuel oil to electric appliances and heat pumps will be more challenging than it looks for both consumers and governments.

Higher Costs Of Electrification

The first and most obvious obstacle to all-electric homes is the cost.

Opponents of planned gas hookup bans in new homes cite higher energy bills and grid overload, as well as taking away consumers’ right to choose the energy supply in their homes. Many consumers, especially in colder climates, are wary that going all-electric would add a lot to their utility bills. Moreover, higher costs for homes not using any fossil fuels for heating or cooking could be a big hurdle for lower-income households, opponents of the all-electric buildings say.

Total added construction costs for all-electric homes range from around $11,000 to $15,000 for cities in colder climates such as Denver and Minneapolis, a study prepared for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) showed earlier this year. In warm climates such as in Houston, the total added construction costs range from $3,988 to $11,196.

Overall, the study found that all-electric homes cost more upfront in comparison to gas homes. Electric homes in cold climates were also found to have higher ongoing utility costs, NAHB said.

“With the higher electric demand, an upgrade in the electric service on the utility side may be needed. Depending on the local utility tariffs, these costs may be significant and need further evaluation,” the study noted.

“It’s easy to write a paper and say switch A for B, but once you dig in you realize it’s not so simple,” Vladimir Kochkin, director of codes and standards at the NAHB told Houston Chronicle’s James Osborne.

“Our members have to build these houses and ultimately sell them,” Kochkin said.

Many consumers are not sold on the all-electric home idea.

NAHB’s What Home Buyers Really Want, 2021 Edition survey showed that consumers generally prefer electricity (51 percent) to gas (33 percent) for their air heating and cooling systems but prefer gas (51 percent) to electricity (39 percent) for cooking. The biggest factors contributing to respondents’ preferences, regardless of region or system, are money savings and reliability, the study found.

Cities Vs States

Consumer preferences are still split and geared toward natural gas in many areas in the U.S., regardless of the push of several cities to ban fossil fuels in new homes.

Some U.S. cities are enacting—or trying to enact—bylaws banning natural gas hookups in new homes, citing concerns over climate change and efforts to decarbonize energy supply.

The quest of many U.S. towns and cities to ensure that all newly built homes will be all-electric has resulted in a fierce battle in dozens of states, many of which have moved to preemptively prohibit their towns from banning natural gas in new homes.

The battle is also between the gas lobby and environmentalists, while many consumers—while supporting their state’s clean energy goals—are wary of rising energy bills and rising costs of building and maintaining an all-electric new home.

Grid Reliability with Higher Electricity Demand

Electrification could also pose a challenge for grid operators and the federal government as higher power demand could strain the transmission systems, many of which need upgrades anyway, analysts say.

For example, a rising share of heat pumps and EVs in New England will raise demand for power this decade, says the New England Independent System Operator (ISO-NE), which manages planning, the power market, and transmission grid for Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. But the higher demand will not put the regional grid at risk of shortages, ISO-NE says, Kevin Adler, Editor, Climate & Sustainability Group, at IHS Markit wrote earlier this year.

However, ISO-NE notes that the combination of heat pumps and EVs will result in peak winter demand for electricity increasing by nearly 2,500 MW, or more than 12 percent higher than current peak demand.

“The challenge will be keeping the regional power system balanced without additional natural gas pipeline capacity, as adding new pipelines in the region has been held up by permitting issues and lawsuits,” IHS Markit’s Adler says.

If the systems are not ready to handle more solar and wind power and if they are not upgraded, some areas in the U.S. could see the ultimate irony of all-electric homes being powered by electricity generated from more fossil fuels such as natural gas.

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102 comments

  1. PlutoniumKun

    This is a very confused article, it throws a lot of unconnected issues together into a stew to come to whatever is supposed to be its conclusion. The only correct thing it says is that converting energy sources for houses is expensive, which is hardly a shock to anyone.

    All-electric homes are very common outside the US. I live in one. The tech is very cheap – electric water heaters and space heaters are the simplest and cheapest (in capital terms) domestic systems you can buy, especially when you factor in the cost of gas infrastructure. They require almost zero maintenance (I’ve replaced one blown heating element in 20 years). And far from putting peak stress on power grids, it is exactly the opposite – they have been actively encouraged in small grids for half a century or more for the simple reason that they can be easily adjusted to use surplus night time power. My office uses storage heaters in service cores to reduce energy stress use during the daytime (not because it was designed to be energy efficient but because this was the cheapest system). Night time water heating is by far the cheapest and simplest form of power storage we have. On a more sophisticated level, small domestic EV systems can power water heat pumps, giving isolated houses almost free water and space heating (albeit with very high initial capital costs). And storage heaters are inefficient in leaky buildings, so it has to be side by side with high levels of insulation.

    It has to be remembered of course that the primary reasons why gas or oil heating is relatively cheap for most housing in most situations is because both have been actively supported by massive hidden subsidies for decades. With natural gas (which in Europe would have the cheapest running costs of all the alternatives for the average consumer), the current low gas prices wordwide are almost certainly not sustainable.

    But it is very hard to address articles like this without looking much more deeply and holistically into how energy is used distributed. There are no easy alternatives and there are no cheap alternatives. But there is also no alternative to doing what is currently technologically and financially feasible. A mass electrification and insulation of housing in most ‘advanced’ countries is pretty much an unavoidable necessary step to significantly reduce emissions within the next 2 decades (i.e. before tech alternatives can be made viable). Most countries are decades ahead of the US and Canada in this. Perhaps the writers of articles like this should take a trip to those countries that do it better.

    1. vlade

      “We do not have a single-payer healthcare, therefore single-payer healthcare can’t exists, and if it does, it can’t be better”. Also known “if it was so good, we’d have been doing it already” syndrome.

      Your point on grid load is a very good one (electric heating tends to even the load on the grid, and often uses up the “idle” electricity production), and shows that the author has some significant problems with understanding the electrification, or is just repeating what she’s been told by someone else.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I am regularly astonished by US commentators raising as some sort of insurmountable obstacle issues which were faced, and fully addressed, by engineers in other countries half a century or more ago. I know quite a few Irish grid engineers who have done work in the US and they usually talk in baffled terms about the supposed problem with peak and intermittency and why they don’t implement what seems (to their eyes) very simple solutions. The US grid has always been based on using sheer scale to overcome balancing problems. Which of course is one solution. But its not the only one. The problems the US faces is regulatory and tied to a very poor and outdated grid (which will need to be upgraded anyway, with renewables or not). The problems are not technical ones, and not even necessarily cost. None of the solutions are cheap and none of them are easy.

        This isn’t to dismiss the enormous problems faced with upgrading and decarbonised grids. There are enormous obstacles. But the questions asked in this article are not the right questions.

        1. IEL

          Can you point me to any good articles on what techniques are used to handle peaks and intermittency outside the US?

          The US suffers from a balkanized grid – three interconnections (east/west/Texas), further divided into a patchwork of ISOs, RTOs, and utilities. And then there are state level policy differences on net metering, smart meters, support for solar and wind, etc. All of these make fixing the problems more complicated – but we need to try.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Sorry, I don’t know of any one clear source. The problem with this subject is that it is very dynamic. Sources from just 10 years ago are far out of date now. It was 5 years ago when I last did a deep dive into the tech, but more recently when I looked at it, there was a complete change, largely due to tech and pricing changes. To give just one example, there has been a major shift from a focus on storing surplus energy to using it to create hydrogen or ammonia as liquid fuels.

            But the basic principles aren’t that hard, they encompass both micro and macro level of design and engineering and maintenance, as well as intensive management of networks and detailed pricing and contractual arrangments to manage demand from commercial users. Often, its been made unnecessarily complex due to stupid PPP deals and the usual neoliberal infestation.

        2. Larry Gilman

          Love this: “I am regularly astonished by US commentators raising as some sort of insurmountable obstacle issues which were faced, and fully addressed, by engineers in other countries half a century or more ago. . . [e.g.] the supposed problem with peak and intermittency and why they don’t implement what seems (to their eyes) very simple solutions.”

          Yes. For instance, I’ve seen recurrent statements on this website about how intermittency of wind and solar is a big hairy deal and woh, storage, it’s all gonna need so much storage! E.g., Yves’s statement in July that “wind turbines presuppose batteries or other means of energy storage, at least for some (most?) of the output.” They do not: Denmark got 62% of its electricity from wind and solar in 2020, Germany 37%, all without deploying significant new grid-scale storage. And both have more reliable grids than the USA.

          Commonsense reasoning about how the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine all the time is completely useless when it comes to actual grids. The grid is not a light-bulb hooked to a windmill.

          1. vlade

            You have to be careful when looking at this. Denmark and Germany rely on being interconnected with the rest of the Europe, which has a very very interconnected grid.

            It is an extremely complex issue TBH, but neither end of the spectra is correct.

            1. fajensen

              Yes, Aaand??

              We have had to negotiate running HVDC lines, contract and pricing models across borders to get that grid, only recently has the rise of the EU made that process a lot easier.

              The USA spans a continent, there are two borders at each end, all of your “impossible” problems are created internally!

              1. vlade

                The point being that you can’t look at Germany/Denmark in separation, they are part of the European grid. To compare, you have to look at Europe vs the US.

                But if you read my comment few lines below, you’d see that Europe comes out of this much better.

                1. Larry Gilman

                  “The point being that you can’t look at Germany/Denmark in separation, they are part of the European grid. ”

                  But who was “look[ing] at Germany and Denmark in separation” to begin with? It’s hard to see the relevance of your caution. Of course these countries are interconnected with Europe; however, it is also standard in the energy literature to report and quote these statistics at the national level (see, e.g., the 2020 Ember review of the EU power sector). My point was and remains that any notion that storage must be built in lockstep with renewables, even to achieve far higher penetration than in the US presently, is nonsense. Whether you look at Europe as a whole (~20% of power generated by wind+solar in 2020) or at national numbers for Germany, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, and others, there has been very high penetration relative to the US of wind/solar without the storage co-deployment sometimes alleged as necessary, e.g. by Yves as quoted. Much-higher-than-US penetration of wind and solar mandates neither lower reliability nor utility-scale storage: Europe proves this hourly and daily. If we can agree on that, we needn’t quibble further.

          2. Jeremy Grimm

            Wind and Solar power are intermittent. Wind and Solar power feeding the US Grid need other electric power sources to balance their intermittency. I am curious — how do you propose producing balanced electric power 24/7 using only non-fossil fuel energy sources — while sourcing the same amounts of electric power as we currently use?

            1. Joe Well

              The US is a vast country. At any given moment the wind is blowing or the sun is shining somewhere.

              I think that’s why a truly national grid would be a breakthrough.

            2. Larry Gilman

              “I am curious — how do you propose producing balanced electric power 24/7 using only non-fossil fuel energy sources — while sourcing the same amounts of electric power as we currently use?”

              If you’d like a good curiosity-quenching read, check out what the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has to say: “Achieving a 100% Renewable Grid.

              More briefly, here are some general reasons why intermittency is so much more tractable than common sense would have it:

              1) Complementarity. In the technical literature (e.g., here), a well-studied benefit of using both wind and solar is that at times when there is less sun there is typically more wind (e.g., at night, in the winter). Also mitigative, solar’s day-night output variations correlate directly with power demand. Also, existing hydro runs 24/7, presently producing ~7% of US electricity. All these mitigations are additive.

              2) Areal effects. An individual wind turbine’s output is less intermittent than the output of any grid-scale wind resource. Ditto for solar panels. It’s simple: across a large area, conditions are never uniform.

              3) Storage. Obviously, with enough storage intermittency can be completely vanquished. Storage includes batteries, but not only: large solar plants that produce electricity around the clock using thermal storage have been online for years (see, e.g., here). In any case, as proven hourly and daily by highly reliable European systems, intermittent renewables can be accommodated to 60+% of power supply (Denmark) without even adding storage (or building dedicated backup generation of any kind).

              4) “Yeah, But What About Perfection?” Getting to almost 100% renewable electric supply is relatively easy: capturing the last few percent may be more expensive. The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory discusses the subject here and in the referenced technical article. This is a conservative or pessimistic view, not a consensus, but all agree that there is no question of technical feasibility, only of cost (using present technology) to get all the way to 100%.

              In sum, 100% renewable electric supply is eminently feasible. The means (and challenges) of getting there have been repeatedly examined in the technical literature.

              Fact: Renewable intermittency is not a fundamental barrier to massive dependence, even 100% dependence, on renewables.

              Sincerely,

              Larry Gilman, PhD (EE)

              1. Larry Gilman

                “An individual wind turbine’s output is less intermittent than the output of any grid-scale wind resource.” Brain fart — mean to say MORE intermittent.

          3. p fitzsimon

            The problem with wind and solar is not just intermittency. The problem is inertia or the lack thereof. Currently large synchronous generators provide inertia through the mass of their spinning rotors. This means when you turn your vacuum cleaner on/off or hair blower the grid adjusts instantly and automatically through the energy stored in the massive spinning rotors. Renewables will require something similar, batteries, flywheels etc.

    2. upstater

      PK: “small domestic EV systems can power water heat pumps, giving isolated houses almost free water and space heating”. Can you elaborate? Not sure if you mis-typed “EV” instead of “PV”. Having said that, whether domestic heating/cooling, hot water, cooking and lighting using either for off grid living would be problematc.

      Drawing off a fully charged 75kwh EV battery would easily consume half or more in a single day in winter in our climate.

      PV simply cannot produce enough for domestic consumption during cold, dark winters on snow covered panels. Our 5KW PV system produces about 6000kwh per year, with 700kwh in sunny months, but sometimes only 200kwh in November through January (and I brush snow and ice off the panels, otherwise they’d produce zero for weeks). I cannot imagine how big of a system we’d need to provide enough for heating and storage during winter.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Sorry yes, I meant PV.

        I wasn’t suggesting that going off-grid was the answer. What I meant was that there is often a problem with integrating PV with existing electricity networks (safety and cost), and its quite common now for people to simply connect the PV to their heat pump system to lower electricity and installation costs. Its a cheap and simple solution that kills two birds with one stone. Its quite common here in Ireland where the power companies are very reluctant to allow people to connect PV cells to the network.

        1. Dave in Austin

          Ireland, as opposed to the US, has one climate (cool damp and miserable) one culture and essentially one ethnicity . The US, on the other hand, has many climates. I’m in hot, humid Houston for a conference right now. The tempreature at 7:44 am is 81 and sunny with 83% relative humidity. We’ll get to 96-99 today. Solar panels and heat pumps make sense here but have high up-front costs in exchange for lower operating costs plus we pump-out cheap gas. On the other hand Chicago is like Finland- very cold with little sun when you need it. Ireland, at least for now, has the Gulf Stream to eliminate very hot and very cold seasons.

          And we have different ethnicities and cultures. A poor Black or Hispanic family in an East Austin, 1920s house with little or no insulation and inefficient-but-cheap-to-buy Chinese window AC units has the choice of a huge electric bill or keeping the AC on occasionally or in only a few rooms. The local utility, Austin Electric, has been forbidden to shut off electric service to non-payers, so everybody elses rates go up. Gentrification is making the land under those homes so valuable, and the real estate tax has gone so high (no income tax here), that it pays to tear them down and put up two, $500,000 efficient townhouses on the lot. The poorer people end up in new, inexpensive to operate apartment buildings or small homes in Pflugerville or Elgin, 20 miles from town.

          A national program to fix poor people’s homes runs into the interethic transfer problem; White, Asian and often hardworking Hispanic and even Black families see no reason to subsidize “those people”, who act and think differently. A few years ago “those people” showed up at a Dublin traffic circle camping- Gypsies/Rom fron Eastern Europe. The government dithered, torn between the bleeding heart voters and the harder ones. Then suddenly a new plane-load showed up at the airport, took cabs to the traffic circle and began to set up. The goverment stopped dithering and read the polls. The Gypsies/Roms were uncerimoniously all bundled onto a plane and sent back to the east.

          So between ethnicity, culture and a climate that varies between those of Dacca and Murmansk, the perfectly rational sollution which works in Ireland is off the table in the Good Old USA.

          1. tegnost

            “White, Asian and often hardworking Hispanic and even Black families”
            hm.
            This one is particularly funny as it takes both sides of the fence

            “The local utility, Austin Electric, has been forbidden to shut off electric service to non-payers, so everybody elses rates go up. Gentrification is making the land under those homes so valuable,”
            Gentrification makes things more expensive so the gentry have to pay more to cover what those people who are not gentry can no longer afford to pay, with a healthy dose of “those lazy stiffs”

          2. vlade

            Europe has climates from freezing Trondhem (and more northern), to 45+C Sicily, that has also extremly poor population full of illegal African migrants working in agriculture.

            But even cultural differences between say Bulgarians and Norwegians (not to pick on anyone, just taking two examples) are massive. Electricity usage patterns vary a lot, never mind house building practices and codes.

            But it still is able to run a rational solution that is way better than the US.

    3. James Simpson

      they can be easily adjusted to use surplus night time power

      Hmmm. Here in NE England, energy suppliers charge at least £150 to install Economy 7 meters. Storage heaters are still notoriously inflexible and overall considerably more expensive. High levels of house insulation such as external cladding are not a simple solution because
      – it is very expensive to install
      – it requires a lot of materials extracted from the earth using fossil fuels
      – it can be dangerous (see Grenfell Tower)
      – it makes homes very hot in the summer

          1. juno mas

            That is what Low E Windows are for. They reduce the emissivity of regular window glass.

            Another way to reduce heat gain is to use thick interior drapes. If one has sufficient interior thermal mass, heat gained in the day can modulate interior temperature after the sun goes down

            See this:http://www.land2plan.com/?page_id=289

    4. Margaret Human

      Please tell Lambert (there is no place to comment on bird song) that veerys can do SO much better than that. There is a song in a long falling spiral of notes. The first time I heard it I was near a mountain side which enhanced the acoustics. I thought I was hearing Great Pan playing his pipes!

    5. IMOR

      “It has to be remembered of course that the primary reasons why gas or oil heating is relatively cheap for most housing in most situations is because both have been actively supported by massive hidden subsidies for decades.”
      This, and the willful failure to factor in cleanup costs of old wells, PCBs, decommissioned power plants (nuke and others) up front when pricing, is why I consider the argument mentioned in the article about consumer ‘choice’ of energy source to be chimerical: pre-limited choice among phantom prices.
      Also, as to problems with load distribution and other grid matters Europe solved decades ago, U.S. recycling and materials recovery processes say, “Hold my beer!”

    6. Anthony Stegman

      In California where I live the largest energy utility PG&E is thoroughly inept, criminal in behavior, and unwilling and unable to maintain a safe and reliable electrical distribution system. The horrors that will unfold with mass electrification of out lives will be a sight to behold. I much prefer natural gas for cooking and heating. I have no intentions of purchasing an electric vehicle.

      1. tegnost

        PG+E is standing pat waiting for the feds to pay to replace their grid at great profit to themselves. Infrastructure!
        I guess as power lines burn up they get replaced, so maybe that’s the bright side…

        1. Dale

          In a planned power shutoff or grid failure, all electric households get to take cold showers, eat cold food and stay cold with no heat, except polluting wood burning fireplaces. This means houses with gas lines will go way up in value vs. all electric.

          Not mentioned anywhere, is the likelihood that ongoing taxpayer subsidies and extensions of nuclear power plant operating licenses will “be needed” with more electrical demand. Diablo Canyon scheduled for shutdown in 2024, unless……

          Working hand in hand with PG&E is social issues state senator Toni Atkins, another carpetbagger (W.Virginia) puppet of the construction industry along with state senator Scott Weiner. (N.J.)

          “Save California Solar, an advocacy coalition, says that the solar credit could fall from 25 cents per kilowatt hour to as little as 5.7 cents under the utilities’ proposal for new solar owners. That proposal also includes new flat monthly fees averaging $56 for future solar users”
          https://www.mercurynews.com/2021/07/24/plans-to-change-rules-for-rooftop-solar-draw-backlash/

      2. d w

        i understand that California deregulated their electric market, so since no one is checking to make sure the grid is actually maintained. looks a lot like Texas, just different results. sort of.

        course California could regulate the grid so that its is actually maintained (as opposed to ignored for almost a 100 years). they are at least in a nation grid (west). so if the grid was actually maintained, they wouldnt have had their messes, and could have avoided some of their fires.

        in the end PG&E will likely end up in bankruptcy, and will also likely loose their entire business over their mess. they should if not would wonder why not.

        in Texas, for the 3rd time in a decade, they found them selves without power in winter. who knew that if no one makes sure they actually can generate electricity when its cold, not just when its hot. who knew that could happen (at east that is their excuse now)

        and of course this is Texas, so nothing wasnt changed by the state to address it. oddly enough back in April they were back to where they were in February. they just didnt go over the dge as they had before. i do wonder why companies want to go to state where its likely to not have electricity to run their business

      3. Socal Rhino

        As a relatively low electricity consuming household in Socal interested in a backup source of electricity (for obvious reasons) a natural gas powered generator looks substantially more attractive financially than a solar installation. Neighbors who run air conditioning nonstop and/or have pools found the solar option compelling.

      4. fajensen

        I much prefer natural gas for cooking and heating.

        With regulation and it’s enforcement outsourced to “The Market”, the gas company will become “thoroughly inept, criminal in behavior, and unwilling and unable to maintain a safe and reliable distribution system.”

        But, there is bottled gas, I guess. Some people swear to it for cooking.

    7. d w

      yea. and a oil industry supported site. has little credibility in talking about electricity. it has been a long time since oil was used to generate it

      1. heresy101

        https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=31232

        “Roughly 70% of petroleum-fired electric generating capacity that still exists today was constructed prior to 1980. Utility-scale generators that reported petroleum as their primary fuel comprised only 3% of total electric generating capacity at the end of 2016 and produced less than 1% of total electricity generation during 2016

        1. juno mas

          Petroleum-powered electricity generating plants do not include natural gas. Although natural gas is considered a fossil fuel. Natural gas now dominates the power source for electricity generation. That’s a lot of CO2.

  2. Jackiebass63

    What most articles seem to avoid is how the electricity is generated. To make it less polluting you need to generate the electricity with non fossil fuel sources. To do that it would take a total conversion in how we generate electricity. That would take decades and be very expensive.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      It would only be expensive if you assumed that all existing infrastructure will say in place and not need replacing or maintenance for those decades. That is obviously untrue. Almost all power infrastructure is designed on a lifecycle of 20-25 years. If you replace fossil fuel with renewables or nuclear, it only costs more, if the the renewables/nuclear costs more. And right now, it doesn’t. In most circumstances, solar and wind is by some distance the cheapest form of electricity. The total balancing depends entirely on the mix of generation at any one time and other infrastructural needs. To say one option or another is ‘more expensive’ or ‘too expensive’ is completely inappropriate until you have looked at the age and structure of any given grid or sub-grid system.

      1. Keith

        Part of the issue in the US is that many of these green movements oppose nuclear and hydro for other reason- to the point of wanting to take some offline. Then the issue of where to put the windmills and solar arrays- many like the idea of solar energy until they have to look at it and live near those facilities.

        1. vlade

          This was the idiocy of the Greens/SPD in Germany, I can’t really call it anything else.

          They said “we’ll decommission all the nuclear plants, right now” *). Fine, but that means problems now which they assumed would just go away.

          The reality is, there are NO good solutions right now, there’s only plethora of variously bad options. Refusing all bad options out of hand means we’ll get the worst of climate change, as nothing will happen.

          Unfortunately, as we see with Covid, the need to believe in a silver bullet seems to be a deep human need.

          *) I could understand “we’ll not build any new ones, and not extend life of existing”. That’s not what they did.

            1. Daniel LaRusso

              often cited by those supporting an argument where the flaws have been pointed out, but the are obsesessed with “must do something”.

              And they are the ones without a sinister motive

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I agree that the anti-nuclear obsession of the European Greens is infuriating.

            But I think in Germany they were pushing an open door when they proposed closing down the reactors (most of which were old and at the end of their useful lives anyway). Germany was never all that sold on nuclear (mostly due to its large coal deposits and access to cheap Russian gas) and they were looking to get off the hook on the EPR (the main proposed European Gen IV design), which they could see was a disaster coming and wanted to land it on the lap of the French. They also put a lot of resources into pebble bed reactors which just didn’t work out. They sold off all their pebble bed research to the South Africans, who then discovered why they didn’t work. The South Africans sold off everything to the Chinese, who (judging by the absence of any research reactors) also belatedly discovered they’d been sold a pup.

            The nuclear industry is full of designs like pebble bed reactors which will be commercial in 5 years, if the government will just put another few billions in (20 years later, the situation rarely changes). It seems every week there is a new modular reactor design just around the corner. It always seems to be a very big corner.

            So whatever the SPD or Greens had said, if the German industrial establishment really wanted nuclear, they would still have nuclear. But the only reactor realistically available to them was the EPR, and that is a guarantee of very high long term power prices as the Finns and French are learning to their cost.

            1. vlade

              They wanted to close the reactors way before their end-of-life. The original goal set by Schroeder (hint, Russian gas?) was delayed by 12+ years by Merkel.

              After Fukushima, Merkel immediately closed eight reactors that still had a few years in them.

              But there was a huge public pressure to close it all, with mass (literally hundreds of thousands) of people getting out.

              I believe most of the lost power was replaced by coal + imports.

              That said, they did put in a lot of wind/solar.

              This is an interesting map BTW.

            2. fajensen

              I agree that the anti-nuclear obsession of the European Greens is infuriating.

              Europe is densely populated: We don’t have the spare land mass available here to absorb fallout and refugees from one of the nuclear plants cooking off, or the waste being left to rot by “Market Forces” and eventually leaking, like Russia, China and the USA has (or think it has).

              Our very own nuclear industry has consistently lied, and then being exposed about pretty much everything, from the not-so-cheap electricity, bribes, leaks, near misses, fraud, incompetence, serial disasters like “Windscale-to-Sellafield” and then THORP.

              The place I worked during Chernobyl, they picked up the fallout 24 hours before the Swedish published it, only “we” kept it secret because “we” were worried that “we” were leaking and “what the public would think about us”. “We” found out!

              Therefore, based on their lived experience, many people naturally believe that the entire nuclear industry is all rotten, corrupted to the core, and in general a threat to life-as-they-know-it.

              The Greens are simply picking up this signal and running with it, like any political party does. If it wasn’t The Greens, it would be picked up by someone else wanting a ticket to the corridors of power.

              France runs nuclear power plants, yes. Under the heavy cloak of “National Security”. Who knows what really goes on “in there”!?

        2. Darius

          Also, solar panels, lithium batteries, etc., are an enormous toxic waste problem. That and all the lithium and other rare-earth mining creates catastrophic ecological impact. It’s also why Musk was so into the Bolivian coup. Destabilization futures.

          1. vlade

            As I write above, there are no good choices. Coal, especially strip-mining, is extremely damaging too. Fracking ditto. Sea oil/gas drilling? Just ask BP…

            Saying “we can’t do this, it’s damaging” doesn’t solve the problem. You have to look at all the alternatives, and – at the moment – make a choice of what you believe is the least-worst, hoping that the future will make it less worse.

            It’s like saying “all renewables need fossil fuels to be created, hence it’s not worth it”. So we can just go and die (as a species).

            Yes, we need to – for some, especially in the US, drastically – reduce energy consumption, in all forms (direct or as products). But we also need to start replacing our infrastructure and technology. Yes, solar and wind alone won’t save us. But what is the alternative? Do nothing?

            1. Jeremy Grimm

              Fossil fuels are not renewable. Renewables — solar and wind power — need fossil fuels to be created — they depend on non-renewable energy sources and non-renewable material resources. The existing solar and wind renewables do not seem very renewable to me in a full sense of the word.

  3. Bob

    Folks, the energy grid is a complicated forest. And there are IOU beasts in the forest that will happily spin tales of woe to confuse and to protect their interests.

    Notably —

    “A would-be class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of American Electric Power investors against the utility and its top executives, alleging the company covertly participated in a bribery scandal overseen by ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder to secure a $1.3 billion ratepayer bailout of two nuclear power plants and help for coal plants.”

    “Aug. 18—COLUMBIA, S.C. — A second high-ranking employee of Westinghouse Electric is facing criminal charges in connection with the multi-billion dollar failure of the doomed SCANA nuclear project in Fairfield County.

    Jeffrey Benjamin, a former Westinghouse senior vice president of new plants and projects, faces multiple counts of fraud, according to an 18-page indictment made public Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Columbia.”

    The point is that power companies especially IOUs are fighting tooth and nail to protect their territory and revenue stream from energy efficiency, renewable power, and natural gas.

    Be very careful of news stories that spin tales of woe – it is often the case that these tales are spun to protect the IOUs.

  4. Mikerw0

    What this post really points out is that there is no comprehensive battle plan for dealing with climate changed. Another crisis that our systems correctly label, but do not have the will or knowledge to address.

    A comprehensive plan would look at where we get the biggest bang for the buck in reducing carbon emissions. For example, converting last mile fleet vehicles (Amazon delivery, Fedex, UPS, USPS, etc.) to electric should be prioritized over passenger cars. They are on the road all day, as opposed to sitting idle, they can charge in the middle of the night, etc.

    Second, a la WWII, we need metrics of success that people can relate to. In same ways climate change is too distant and amorphous. Even if we are experiencing it all around us.

    The elites nixed a large scale wind farm of the coast of Long Island, NY because the views. These are the same elite who no doubt know we need to change, so long as they don’t have to do their part.

    And, yes it mens lifestyle change. In a world burning less hydrocarbons we get serious health benefits. Seems a pretty good trade.

    The commentariat here can grow the list. I am pessimistic we will respond as a global society.

    1. d w

      hm, we also need to stop saying we want to ‘save the planet’
      the planet will outlast humans, we really cant do it any major harm

      what we can do is make it so we cant live on it any more
      what we need is to make it so we can continue to live on it

      if thats what we say it will get more buy in from the public. not from those whose job is in oil/coal….or natural gas, or they invested in it.

  5. Zamfir

    On this particular topic of residential heating, is there really a form of radical conservation that is also “slow and simple”?

    Most buildings can be improved in heating efficiency, but this not simple, or cheap, and it involves just as much techno-solutionism as electrification. Especially if the target is a radical reduction of emissions, not just the low-hanging fruit. For the cost of a major renovation multiplied by the number of houses, you can do absolute miracles to the electric grid.

    The other direction of conservatism is to turn down the heat and accept more cold. How far can this be pushed towards radical levels of reduction, beyond the level of wearing an extra sweater? This might be technically simple, but in other aspects is crazily complicated. How to get people to accept serious cold voluntarily? If that does not achieve, what kind of involuntary reduction is acceptable?

    1. James Simpson

      We in the colder latitudes should not be considering living in colder houses. For one, it is conducive to chronic and serious ill-health. Humans did not evolve here; we moved here as our technologies enabled is to live comfortably in colder climates.

      1. The Historian

        Might I remind you that humans lived in cold climates before the advent of electricity and other forms of power generation? And might I remind you that evolution is ongoing and that humans have proven they can adapt to many different climates?

        Do the Inuits or the Nenets have worse health that other people because they live in colder climes?

        1. Daniel LaRusso

          I think again the people advocating living in cold/miserable places … to save the world. Won’t actually be living their themselves

        1. saywhat?

          I love em. The problem is I can’t seem to find one that lasts for more than a year or two.

          Any suggestions?

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      One way to reduce consumption in both summer and winter is to “retreat” from parts of the house that are more difficult to heat or cool during the relevant season. Close the doors to non-essential rooms and close the heat vent in that room if using forced air or turn off the heat source in that room. You should inventory where your water pipes are first, and be especially alert to any supply pipes in outside walls or that travel over or under unheated spaces.

      If you’re in an old house like ours, concentrate first on heat loss from infiltration, i.e. leaky windows and doors. If you have the money to replace them, great. If not, you can do a lot with the inexpensive weatherizing kits available in hardware stores. Second, up your insulation in the attic.

      In the summer, grow shading for windows on the east and especially the west. For first floors, lots of plants will do this well, for example, Mammoth sunflowers. For second floors, I’m using hops, a perennial, that grow remarkably fast in the early spring to shade windows as high as 25-30 by the 4th of July.

      1. Zamfir

        That’s all good stuff, but I would count a lot of that as low hanging fruit. Current CO2 emissions levels are already based on a lot of insulated attics…

        The question is, what’s the next step, and the steps after that? At the conservation level that you describe, fossil building heating is one of the main sources of CO2. We need much, much better than this level, while conservation becomes steeply more difficult as it gets pushed further.

        There is a cross-over point, where non-fossil heating is the easier approach compared to further conservation. For most existing buildings, my estimate is that that cross-over point still involves quite a lot of heating, even if that non-fossil heating is itself a massive project to realize.

        The article above takes the easy way out. It says, electric heating has downsides, let’s rely on natural gas.

      2. Duke of Prunes

        I don’t know that the “close the heat vents” in a forced air system actually saves anything in the long run. The consensus among HVAC professionals is that this will eventually cause problems with your furnace or air conditioning heat exchanger. They recommend getting a proper “zoned system” or keep all the vents open.

        The logic is thus (from this thread: https://hvac-talk.com/vbb/threads/1860231-Anyone-use-EcoVent-yet):

        “If your system requires (arbitrary number) 1000 cubic feet of air to move through it, and your duct system can handle 1000 cf then everyone is happy. now close off 1/2 of the registers and you are moving way less air. your furnace is still creating the same amount of heat with no place for it to go. something is going to give and the flame always wins. overheating and beating the furnace to death.”

        And another one that directly answers the question, but without as much conversation or reasoning: https://hvac-talk.com/vbb/threads/1995341-Can-I-close-some-floor-registers-to-save-energy

      3. d w

        well are some new tech that essentially paints your house we it, will reduce the amount of electricity to cool it. and a few others

        just dont expect them soon, as there are those who dont want to loose money

        course after a few years, it seems like most of the utility companies have adapted to reduce usage, by cutting maintenance

    3. IEL

      Attic insulation helps a lot. Massachusetts has heavily subsidized it, which was a wise move. Beyond that – yes, wear sweaters, get insulated blinds (the honeycomb ones help) and/or curtains. Bring back (cozy!) box beds and four poster canopy beds. Zoned heating systems let you keep the bedrooms warmer than the living room at night.

      There are limits of course. Here in the Northeast, there is only so much insulation you can stuff in existing detached wood frame houses, and winters get very cold at times. We have a wood stove as backup, which we have used as our primary heat – and it works, if you are home enough to feed the fire.

      1. d w

        this cant be done to older houses, but in Germany when i was there back in the 80s and was actually part of building codes there, they have a really extreme version of walls, they are really really thick. for good reason too, as the power is actually turned of some time over night

        not sure that would really work in the US

        1. IEL

          There are some Passivhaus homes in the States. A family member didn’t go full passive with theirs, but did double stud construction with tons of insulation. It does work, but most of the housing stock is older and difficult to retrofit beyond a certain degree. Europe has more masonry homes (which have thermal mass), and more attached homes (which helps with insulation since a smaller proportion of the walls are exterior walls.). And Europe saves energy by having generally much more compact, walkable cities. Sprawl leads to tremendous waste of energy for transportation, etc. Most of Europe also doesn’t have winters as brutal as much of the US gets.

          1. vlade

            re your last sentence.

            Well, it depends. In the last four winters, we (nearby Prague, Czech Republic) had -20C (-4F) for a couple of days, dry cold no snow, . This year we had only about -12C (10F), with some snow. Even on mild year like the one before we had nights with -8/-10C, and a winter day temperature of -5C is not uncommon.

            Alpine region (so France, Swiss, Austria, Germany, Italy) gets winter temperatures lower than these regularly, together with about two metres of snow.

            Norway + Sweden population is about the same as New England, and they certainly don’t have mild winters.

            And I’m not counting Russia (of which large swathes are in Europe, believe it or not :) ), because if I did, then I’d get places like Oymyakon, with average minimum temperature of -50C (-58F). Reportedly, it’s the coldest inhabited place on the Earth, with a record low of -70C (-96F)

    4. Bob

      Most buildings can save on average 10% cheaply and without impacting occupant comfort.

      Simple low cost no cost solutions are available. And there is a large pool of trained and credentialed engineers who implement.

      There is a revolution taking place in lighting that promises to reduce lighting loads by half. With the national lighting load being around 25%.

      For those of you living in apartments with an electric water heater try flipping the breaker off when you leave during the day.

      The suggestion that comfort conditions have to be dispensed with is a bit of a red herring.

      1. Zamfir

        Thing is, we don’t need 10% reduction in Co2 emissions, or 20%, or 30%. We need 90%, or more overall. And building heating is too big a chunk to go easy on. That means all of the simple low cost solutions, and then much much more.

        As far as I can see, that will involve massive amounts of electric heating , from low-CO2 electricity. Not as an alternative to conservation, but in addition to conservation.

        1. d w

          well if we need 90% reduction then we are doomed, too many will not agree to that.

          then we are doomed.

          as even going back in time will not help us any at all

            1. Daniel LaRusso

              how much better? what will be accomplished if we don’t hit the targets XR talk about. They’re saying if that isn’t done then it’s cerrtain doom. Unless I misread their stuff.

      2. tegnost

        I agree with this, Bob, in principle. In our little associated housing area we have a clubhouse/shop area. The lights were switched to motion sensor so they come on when someone is there (rarely) rather than on all night because the last person through did not turn off the lights. The problem we have has been pointed out on NC recently, but I can’t recall exactly when. We save 10% as a society which leads to us having a 10% void to fill so conservation is the route to higher consumption which is good for the economy. Sort of like amazon is cheaper so I can buy more junk from amazon. This post goes well with the one on capitalism/demand above.

        1. Bob

          If cheaper power (a la Amazon) was the goal the most sensible approach would be to use the lowest cost power first.

          See Levelized Cost of Electric Power —- Lazard

          Oh and it turns out that the lowest cost power is wind, solar, hydro, energy efficiency.

          So with that 10% void maybe the coal, gas, and nuke can be left in the ground.

          1. tegnost

            My point is as a society we that 10% savings goes to gdp and we either buy more stuff with the savings or we have a recession.

  6. Brooklin Bridge

    I wonder if, at least in Western countries but perhaps not limited to them, corruption isn’t the greatest source of energy waste. This might be too broad a definition of corruption, but it’s still worth examining. For instance, the laws passed by many districts to prevent home owners from installing solar by preventing or frustrating them from selling unused power back to the local utility companies which constitutes an unfair and arguably corrupt use of political power protecting profit margins at the cost of overall long term efficiencies. Or, the whole process of permitting itself which in many places has shifted from a means of regulating safety and quality to one of a top heavy unaccountable revenue stream for local governments at the eventual cost of the public’s ability to afford housing. Then there is the whole issue of big finance buying up power generation plants that might otherwise provide transitional (until more co2 friendly means of production can be built) power for peak energy periods so as to starve the grid and enable price gouging. Then there is the the political process (with all kinds of money changing hands) of deciding what sort of new power plants to construct for a given area where graft tends to have a larger say in the selection than environmental concerns.

  7. meadows

    When it comes to obscene consumption and consequent pollution providing no benefit to citizens, fattening the offshore accounts of the uber-wealthy… nothing quite beats the United States Military!

  8. The Rev Kev

    Can you imagine what would happen if a government went to its people and said that they are going to do two things. One, they were going to totally freeze electricity prices to near cost levels. And two, everybody is going to be on an electricity budget and it will be the same for everyone. And no trading allowed either. If this was in place, people would choose more efficient electrical gear so to get more use out of their electricity budget. It might make people actually examine what they budget their electricity for. Why yes, this is rationing. Better get use to this idea as between the changes that climate change is bringing in as well as depletion of resources, I think that one day this is how it will shake out.

    1. Another Scott

      This gets into one of my problems with these natural gas bans: the places that enact them. In Massachusetts, the first place to attempt one was Brookline (it was struck down as illegal). Brookline is a very wealthy town, almost entirely surrounded by the City of Boston, and has more PhD per capita than anywhere else in the US. It’s full of expensive mansions, many with large lawns. The ban wouldn’t impact people occupying those houses, who consume orders of magnitude more energy than residents of neighboring Brighton and Allston. I’m not even sure how much more buildable lots there are left in the town. If the town really wanted to do something about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it’d be entirely rezoned for multi-family units, (it is also very well-served by the MBTA), which would allow more people to live there and reduce the number of single family homes and their high heating and transportation energy consumption.

    2. d w

      well, to do that would require states to do put into law. and many states wont even touch it

      Federal government couldnt mandate it in the US. they could help fund it, or tax usage higher by amount used (use more and tax is higher…use less…not so high)

      of course you will need to adjust that state, since Arizona fir example is going have higher electric usage in summer than say New Hampshire would.

      course the other (and more pressing thing really) is discouraging building on the coasts, and encouraging those that have, to move. that threat is very imminent in some states its already happening)

  9. Louis Fyne

    If you live east of the Rockies, a lot of you know we are in a heat dome right now. My next of the woods wind-generated electricity dropped 80%-90% from max. output as winds die off in heat domes weather patterns.

    Here is the absolutely true irony of more wind/solar….(without essentially banning A/C) more wind/solar only increases the importance of natural gas. Every US city cannot get through the 3pm – 6pm summer electricity demand hump without either (a) nat gas (or fission) + solar + wind, or increasing the wind footprint literally 100x to ensure there is enough spare summer capacity in the system, which is doable—downside of being cost, and finding the real estate, and building the transmission lines.

    And solar will never get us there, by itself, as peak solar energy output is at solar noon/ 12 – 1p….a time when demand is relatively benign—again barring a massive buildout of solar on a scale not addressed beyond a theoretical level in the current Green New Deal plans—but then there still is the problem of demand from sunset to 11p on heat dome-induced windless nights.

  10. russell1200

    The NAHB study seems odd. Our house is mostly electrical, but does have a gas water heater and gas heat for the central AC/Heating system. So to go all electric, you would mostly be increasing the size of the electrical conductors to wherever the gas heating is going on and the water heater. That is not going to cost you a whole lot as the increase in material cost is offset by the reduced labor in piping the gas.

    The EV Charger and the Convection Oven they note are upgrades. Do we need to convert our electric oven to a convection oven to make it electrical?

    The real issue is cost to use. We can either use the gas at the point of use, or have the electrical use gas (or nuclear) at their power plant and then suffer the transmission loss. And that is presuming that the cost of the energy used is the same. It generally isn’t.

    You see all these articles about how renewables are becoming cheaper than fossil fuels at the utility level. It is pure silliness. They are only cheaper when you are dealing power that is capable of being used as it is produced. It doesn’t at all factor in the cost of energy storage of the electricity, something that will be necessary if you are going to go all renewable.

  11. Jack

    Not a very well organized article. As usual on NC, I learned more from the comments than I did from the article, especially this one. Yes, climate change is a problem. I think an increase of electrification can help alleviate some its impact , but not for the reasons that most climate change proponents advocate. I really do not think that carbon emissions from humans are the root cause of climate change. What we spew into the atmosphere is only 1-2% of the yearly total. And the science proving that human carbon emissions are the root cause of climate change is iffy at best. Lots of theories and projections but short on proof. Electrification I think could help though because it would help focus our actions on meaningful overall change in how we think about the environment. Natural gas, oil, and coal are not renewable. And they cause a lot of harm to the environment due to the processes used to extract those resources. To solve our problems as a society, we have to get away from the concept that it is all about the money. We need a plan, multiple plans really, to do what is best for our society as a whole and not just for the enrichment of a few. I really do not see that happening in the US. Things are just too broken. And until a real societal collapse occurs with rioting in the streets and politicians, lawyers, and big business CEO’s hanging from the light poles, I really do not think anything will change.

  12. ptb

    Looking at the US, which is probably atypical globally:

    From what I understand and estimates made in previous years, EV charging is not that awful, it’s a fractional increase in electric use (crude estimate on the order of 10% IIRC), and much of it off-peak too.

    Heating and hot water on the other hand are the big item in this story. (AC is already electric). Heating and Hot water add up to 62% of all residential energy use per per US EIA, as of 2015.

    So in places where these items are currently natural gas, you’re looking at a 150% increase in electric energy used, (again residential). So locally in residential neighborhoods, grid upgrade for sure.

    At the larger scale level, residential itself is 21% of US energy use per DOE (date unclear).

    1. Zamfir

      Building heating is massive, indeed (and doesn’t get enough focus IMO). The numbers are a bit more beneficial than it might seem though. Heat pumps deliver more heat energy than they consume in electricity, by a factor 2 or more. The load is spread out over time, so the impact on the grid (cabling, transformers) is also reduced. Those are designed for peak load, not average.

      Still massive , no doubt about that.

  13. Larry Y

    Hawaii is already mostly electric – as any fuel needs to be imported via tanker. It’s a natural case study. There are strong incentives to time-shift energy use to match up better with renewables.

    The lessons from there are somewhat limited because heating and cooling are less critical. For where it can get cold, heat pumps have gotten much, much better. However, for the occasional deep freeze and/or power outage, I can’t see a way around natural gas for backup heat, with wood burning systems limited to lower density areas because of air quality concerns..

  14. Felix_47

    I think that nuclear is the only realistic option if we believe in global warming. Renewables should be encouraged but we have the technology to do nuclear way better. Agreed France is not perfect but they are doing it for the bulk of their power. One can always improve. The problem is psychological, and political and legal. Don’t forget way more people die from global warming than ever died from nuclear. We can assume that our government and decision makers and the decision process simply are not qualified to do nuclear so it is off the table. But solving global warming seems to mean we are going to have to do a lot of things. One thing that I see no one discussing is car speed and fuel economy. According to figure 4.7 of the DOE Transportation Energy Data Book of 2021 driving at a higher speed decreased fuel economy. Looking at the graph for 2012 (the last year tested) one sees that a large SUV of that year gets about 35 miles per gallon at 45 miles per hour and at 75 it gets 25 MPG. The graph is similar for a midsize car of that era except the mileage is slightly better at both points. Obviously older cars do a lot worse. It seems the peak mileage overall is in the range of 45 miles per hour which makes sense since air resistance is the major frictional factor and it increased by the square of the speed. In response the the Arab boycott of fuel Nixon lowered the speed limit to 55. It was never well enforced, everyone hated it and studies showed it did not save much fuel, if any. However global warming is much more serious, we are told, than a tiff with the Arabs. So a very simple thing would be to have the decider in chief, Mr. Biden, order a national speed limit of 45. We have the power to enforce it. If you calculate it the decrease in mileage translates to more fuel stops which eat up time and make you eat more calories so the end result is pretty close. The fact that we have had no such recommendation or regulation tells me the leadership in the US in both parties does not believe in global warming. I note that Biden is actively trying to increase oil production worldwide to lower gas prices as well. A 45 limit would not cost much in comparison to the things we talk about in renewable and the green new deal.

    1. ptb

      Elsewhere, the answer is to not use single occupancy cars and trucks for daily commute. Which would radically downsize our spectacularly wasteful auto industry and associated infrastructure, so won’t waste further time on this.

    2. d w

      i can see trying to reduce the number of cars on the road. but since most of us live in larger cities (geographically speaking than in Europe say). cities here can cover 100 sq miles or more. and trying to get from one part of town can take hours using a train. trains work well in smaller geographical areas (and may actually be the only realistic way to do travel).
      not sure you will get many commuters who will share a ride, short of raising gas taxes. and there really is no will to do that.
      but so far we have gotten pretty good at increasing MPG efficiency. and doing that can also reduce pollution. not enough on its own, but as some pointed out, perfection is the enemy of possible
      course EV’s can help, but only allows better controls (easier to control fewer sights, than millions of cars) and can reduce pollution where generators dont use coal.

  15. Synoia

    I lived in Africa, Once in Lagos, Nigeria and once in Johannesburg and the UK.

    We had ceiling fans for cooling in Nigeria, and a well designed house.
    In Johannesburg we had neither cooling nor heating, the same was true in Harare, Zimbabwe.

    We had no cooing in the UK. Heating was by coal. However it is possible to live with no heat in the UK if the house is “Super Insulated.” Many, if not most, UK houses are poorly insulated.

  16. Hepativore

    In terms of heating, I live in Minnesota, and the cost of heating can get ridiculously expensive here in the upper Midwest because of the duration and cold of our winters.

    One thing which I think would be a good idea, is that I am surprised that nobody here has mentioned trying to set up something like a district heating system like you see in some parts of Europe as well as the US in urban and suburban areas and there are also ways to use it for cooling. Basically, you pump waste heat generated by powerplants or other industrial facilities into a network of pipes within the neighborhood where you use it to heat homes and buildings.

    Since the heat is a waste product and therefore has to be disposed of, you might as well get some use out of it.

    1. Zamfir

      It’s tricky to use true waste heat for residential heating. Not always impossible but the stars have to be aligned just right. A heat distribution net is a sizable undertaking – you need to break up streets, put in big pipes with lots of insulation, install exchangers in the houses.

      At that point, you want a long-term committed heat source, of the right size and temperature. Not something that might get optimized away, or get closed if the market shifts. And it should be at a fairly short distance from the homes, usually not the best place for heavy industry.

      The traditional source for most district heating is a fossil-fuel electric power station, designed on purpose with district heating in mind. But we’re trying to get rid of those … it’s much harder to organize district heating around an “accidental” waste heat source.

      1. Jesper

        It can be done, here is one example:
        https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/ringsend-incinerator-to-supply-heat-for-30-000-more-homes-1.4547219

        But it is joint venture, public and private, and not yet completed so who knows:

        the council would be seeking a joint venture partnership with an experienced energy company later this year and hopes to have the system operational by late 2024 or early 2025, in time to serve new homes on the former Glass Bottle Company site next to the incinerator.

        It had been talked about for so long (since 2007) without much signs of progress so I thought it might not happen.

  17. Robin Kash

    This critique does not acknowledge some basic requirements to build the basic infrastructure for fuller–perhaps nearly total–electrification across the country.
    Solar panels, wind turbines, storage batteries rely on uses of rare earth elements. At present, China has a near monopoly on mining, processing, and distribution of the minerals.
    Afghanistan is reported to have deposits awaiting extraction, etc., valued at a trillion dollars.
    Rare earth elements will likely become the new “oil.” The US a few years back overthrew the Bolivian government to assure access to its enormous supply of lithium.
    Foreign policy approaches by the US involve expenses this article did not take into account.

  18. Mikey Joe

    There are so many ways to reduce energy consumption.
    For example:
    How many people have worked in an office during the summer where the air conditioning was so cold that people wore sweaters??? 😎😎

  19. Ron


    “Electrification of buildings and industry in the United States Drivers, barriers, prospects, and policy approaches”

    This 2018 study commissioned by the government of the USA is an excellent high level view of all the issues surrounding electrification of buildings and industry in the USA. There are factors not considered, such as how many refineries could be shut down and when (refineries are huge fossil fuel users), the benefits of greater resilience in the face of hurricanes and storms from electric use, and pollution reductions. It is easy to read and shows where change would be easier and where it would be more difficult. The basic conclusion is “we have the technology” for most of this while a few areas (refineries, non-metallic mineral processing, paper mills) are more difficult to convert.

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