Electrifying buildings will play a critical role in managing our carbon budget. Nearly 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to powering residential and commercial properties (Figure 1). Worldwide residential emissions alone are roughly equivalent to Europe’s entire carbon footprint. The challenge is both global (building stock will double in area by 2060) and hyper-local (building codes and economic incentives are often applied at a city or county level).
Building electrification and grid decarbonization go hand-in-hand. While electrification does not instantly make the energy supply entirely clean, it gives it a chance to be. The process involves replacing a structure’s primary energy draws such as heating, cooling, and hot water (Figure 2) with electric equivalents. In new construction, it means installing electric HVAC, electric hot water, and electric appliances from the start. The hardware already exists and is well understood.
In fact, building electrification is most often a collective coordination problem. Property owners are highly fragmented in local markets with low software penetration and limited access to capital. Historically, few companies have developed network effects that support national or international scale. There are a number of reasons for this, including: