Twenty Five Governors Commit to Heat Pumps, Big Leap in Right Direction

The growing movement of people from all over the country calling for healthy, clean and more efficient buildings just notched a big win! Twenty-five US governors, who make up the bi-partisan US Climate Alliance, committed to install 20 million heat pumps by 2030, with the aim of ensuring at least 40 percent of benefits flow to disadvantaged communities. This would quadruple the amount of heat pumps in the US!

Burning fossil fuels for space and water heating inside our homes generates greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change as well as other harmful pollutants that negatively impact outdoor air quality and harm people’s health. Environmental justice and other marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by pollution from buildings. 

We know that we need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, yet pollution from buildings is increasing. Thankfully, we have the tools to transition away from burning fossil fuels in our homes.

Heat pumps can replace fossil fuel-fired furnaces and water heaters or less efficient electric resistance heaters. Heat pumps do not emit air or climate pollution, and they are much more energy efficient than fossil fuel heaters or electric resistance heaters, often leading to lower overall energy costs for folks. 

Better efficiency and no pollution are not the only benefits provided by heat pumps – they also provide air conditioning! Access to heating and cooling in once appliance can be life-saving given the increase in deadly heat waves and extreme cold snaps caused by climate change. 

20 Million Heat Pumps Is the Floor, Not the Ceiling

While the commitment by governors to substantially increase the number of heat pumps in the country is monumental, if we are going to equitably electrify all buildings, we will need to go even bigger! According to a Rewiring America report, we need ten times more water heater heat pump sales and three times more space heating heat pump sales by 2032 to be on track to meet our climate goals.

We need states to enact a suite of policies to support a transition away from fossil fuel space and water heating in our buildings. They will only do so if they continue to hear from people that this is a priority.

What can your state policymakers do?

  • Commit to a state heat pump goal that meets or exceeds the US Climate Alliance commitment! Governors in four states have announced state specific heat pump or home electrification goals (California, Maine, New Jersey, New York). Maine was the first to make a commitment – originally pledging to install 100,000 heat pumps by 2025 – and Governor Mills has since increased that to 175,000 heat pumps by 2027 since the state was ahead of its goal.
  • Drive Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) incentives and other funding to support whole-home retrofits of low-income households, including heat pumps. Funding from the IRA, including tax credits, home energy rebates, and other programs, will help people install heat pumps and make other efficiency upgrades and home safety repairs. Enacting one-stop shops that integrate multiple sources of funding for whole-home retrofits can more efficiently and effectively support an equitable transition away from fossil fuels in low-income homes.
  • Enact state policies needed to achieve equitable decarbonization. As part of the US Climate Alliance announcement, Governors from a number of states committed to explore additional policies that would put their states on a path towards equitable decarbonization. We need states to commit to these actions, including:
    • Air quality standards for space and water heating equipment. Last year, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District was the first entity to enact zero-emission standards for space and water heating equipment as a way to reduce air pollution by phasing out the sale of new fossil-fuel space and water heaters. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington all committed to explore zero-emission standards and must move them forward.
    • Building Performance Standards. Building performance standards are state and local laws that require existing buildings to achieve minimum levels of energy or climate performance. These policies reduce climate and air pollution from buildings. Colorado, Maryland and Oregon have already enacted building performance standards and California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all committed to explore this policy and must work to move them forward.
    • Clean Heat Standards. A clean heat standard requires heat providers to deliver a gradually increasing percentage of low-emission heating services to customers. A strong clean heat standard can support a transition away from fossil fuel-fired heating to cleaner and safer electric heat. Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all committed to explore the development of clean heat standards.
    • Phase out fossil fuel heating and cooling in new construction by 2027. Across the country, more than 100 cities have enacted policies that would phase out fossil fuel heating and cooling for new buildings. New York State passed the All-Electric Buildings Act last session, and Washington State updated its building codes to strongly incentivize the use of all-electric heating and cooling for new buildings. California, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York and Washington all committed to explore this policy, and two are on their way!  
  • Adopt energy-efficient building codes. Twelve states (CA, CO, CT, MA, MD, ME, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, WA) committed to support the development and adoption of advanced energy-efficient building codes. Advanced codes can maximize opportunities for efficient electrification and support solar and electric vehicle readiness.
  • Align building sector utility plans with state climate goals. Many states have strong state climate goals but need further policy to make sure those goals are met! Ten states (CA, CT, HI, MA, MD, NJ, NY, OR, RI, WA) committed to take actions to align resource planning and procurement policies for buildings with their state climate goals. This could be a key first step in moving away from fossil fuels in our buildings.

We have a huge opportunity to leverage this climate and health commitment by a majority of US governors for even more change. Contact your Governor to thank them for this commitment and encourage them to enact strong policies for cleaner, safer, and more efficient buildings.

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