November 14, 2019 by Mike Phillips
As CEO of a “clean technology” company, which helps with reducing carbon use, people ask me how they can have a positive impact on the environment. My answer is this: What really matters, more than anything else you do, is that you pay careful attention to your energy use, because it is your single biggest contribution to climate change.
Scientists have made clear that climate change will have very negative impacts on the environment as a whole. Today, I’m feeling hopeful about climate change because I am seeing important steps that are underway to address energy use.
A recent poll by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 80% of Americans say human activity is fueling climate change. And after years of indecision, state governments are getting serious about taking action and responding with more aggressive measures to curb carbon emissions. As of today, five states—California, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, and Washington—as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have enacted 100% carbon-free standards and set a timeline of about 20 years to accomplish it. This represents 11% of national electric sales and 5.4% of national utility carbon emissions. Four more states are actively debating 100% carbon-free standards, and several governors have made pledges to be carbon-free by 2050: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Other states have set 50% to 75% carbon reduction goals, such as Maryland, New Jersey, and Vermont.
The state of New York has a deadline of 2050 to reach net-zero carbon emissions for its economy, including an 85% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. By 2030, the state must also generate 70% of its electricity from renewable sources—up from 23% currently—the vast majority of that coming from hydroelectric power.
Utilities are also taking leadership roles. National Grid, one of the largest electricity and gas utility companies in the Northeast, has proposed the Northeast 80×50 Pathway, an integrated blueprint for New England to reduce greenhouse gas emissions deeply below 1990 levels while supporting economic growth and maintaining affordability and customer choice. National Grid’s approach combines several mutually reinforcing strategies that together provide a clear pathway to significant emissions reductions and signal a paradigm shift in the way we all relate to energy.
National Grid’s Pathway calls for big shifts in the region’s energy systems by 2030, including:
Beyond 2030, the Pathway calls for deeper and more sustained technological innovation coupled with increasingly ambitious policy action, according to the 80×50 Pathway document.
As these required standards become the norm across states, homeowners will need to make changes, and real estate professionals can advise them on where to start. It will be more important than ever for your clients to know how and when they are using energy in their homes.
Innovations ranging from heat pumps to electric vehicles to smart thermostats will give the average homeowner more ways to optimize their energy use, so everyone’s carbon footprint shrinks without diminishing their lifestyle. People will be able to make their homes smarter and more efficient while being less resource-intensive, costly, and wasteful.
As utilities move to more renewable energy sources, it will be increasingly important for homeowners to know not only how much energy they are using but when they are using it. Should they be doing their laundry during the day—when solar energy is at its peak—or at night? When is the best time to charge an electric vehicle?
Smart homes will increasingly help consumers make those decisions. Smart thermostats are an example of technology that will help shift energy loads to accommodate the ebb and flow of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. The notion of a truly “smart home” is still early, but over time, more and more technology will become part of homes, and energy and other resource optimization will be important drivers. Smart homes will give people more information so they can make choices to live comfortably while optimizing their use of energy.
Here are a few concrete tips real estate professionals can share with homeowners so they can begin to immediately optimize their energy footprints and take advantage of the positive changes that are underway:
At the end of the day, these carbon-free standards will not only protect the environment but help homeowners save money on their utility bills by living more sustainable lifestyles.