Electrification key to a better future

Multiple new and successful building projects — including the Hotel Marcel and The Elm — have been completed in New Haven and point to the coming transition from fossil fuel to electric-based energy. These projects represent the idea of an “electric future,” and our community needs to be implementing the same electric technology for everyday life — in our homes and cars.

The New Haven Electric Future campaign is encouraging the transition away from fossil fuels to a community solely reliant on electricity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as air pollution and noise, and to increase efficient use of energy. Doing so is necessary for the health of the planet and ourselves.

Electrification is the transition away from fossil fuel-reliant technology. A transition to electric devices would allow for the functioning of a modern society without the negative environmental and health impacts that come from fossil fuels.

Gas-powered technology is everywhere, and many are unaware of the risks such devices pose. One example, the gas stove, has been repeatedly shown to release toxic chemicals into the home. Even when turned off, these gas-powered appliances leak methane into the environment. Another ubiquitous machine, the gasoline-powered car, has a better-known reputation for spewing toxic chemicals. Transportation-related gasoline power is a huge contributor of toxic waste anywhere there are cars.

Electric energy mitigates the negative health effects that come with fossil fuel consumption. When considering air quality and the public health impact of breathing cleaner air, the American Lung Association found that, in the United States, a full electrification model would avert $72 billion in health care costs.

Though the effects that fossil fuels have on the environment are widely known, our community response has lagged. To reduce emissions, we need to switch as many systems as possible from natural gas to the Connecticut grid, which continues to include more and more renewable energy sources. Zero-carbon and nuclear resources now make up nearly 65 percent of electricity consumed, and this percentage is expected to increase to 91 percent by 2025. Electrification just makes sense.

Natural gas and its consumption are detrimental to the health of the planet and ourselves, and prompt community action in transitioning to healthy alternatives is needed. Electrification is possible in any community that is committed to change. Early strides towards an electric future can serve as a framework for other locations. Ithaca, N.Y., has approved a plan to decarbonize the city’s entire building stock through the electrification and retrofitting of 6,000 buildings. Berkeley, Calif., became the first U.S. city to require that all new construction be electric in 2020.

In our own community of New Haven, several successful projects have already been established. The Hotel Marcel, formerly known as the historic Pirelli Building, became the first all-electric, net-zero emissions hotel in the United States when it opened this past year. The hotel gets its energy from roof solar panels and high-efficiency heat pumps. Another electrical success in the area, The Elm, is entirely electric-powered. Its high-efficiency heat pumps allow for a system that is less expensive to install, and will result in energy and emissions savings.

These larger projects, as well as many others, demonstrate that an electric future can be successful in our backyard. The recent passing of an electrification resolution by the city of New Haven Board of Alders in March 2021 demonstrates an existent commitment to an electric future in New Haven: “The City of New Haven recognizes the broad benefits of accelerating the transition to electric buildings and transition to electric buildings and transportation throughout the city.” Prompt action in our own community will serve as a guide for the state of Connecticut and beyond.

What can an individual do? Share what you know with your family, friends, coworkers, landlords and the like. Those in charge of energy allotment also need to know that electrical energy is the future, so share your concern with local elected officials and state government. The wide benefit that an electric future can bring to New Haven within the next few years is truly something to get excited about.

Alex Murphy is a member of New Haven Climate Movement’s Electric Future campaign.

Ninjay H Briotyon

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