New Yok State is working to transition the heating sector to become more climate friendly through the electrification of heating, cooling and water heating. Although a step in the right direction, total electrification might lead to more construction of fossils fuel based powerplant due to increase demand in electricity and also leaves the power grid open to vulnerabilities. For example, in February 2021, Texas experienced a blizzard which caused mass blackouts and left homes without heating. Similarly, blackouts of this scale are commonplace on the East coast due to hurricanes, as well as on the West coast due to wildfires.
- Figure A - Energy Consumption in Typical US Household
Extreme weather events are not the only risks aggravated by the influence of climate change. In their latest reports, the IPCC (2019) focuses on the effect of climate change, specifically the desertification and degradation of land. It suggests that climate change will accelerate several desertification processes and the risk of desertification will increase in the future. This has various implications, such as the loss of biodiversity and an increase in the likelihood of wildfires.
The steady march of climate change is largely fuelled by the abundance of global energy usage. Heating makes up a very large portion of this usage. The above figure ( Figure A) illustrates the energy consumption composition of a typical US household.
As you can see, space heating is a major consumer of energy in buildings nationwide. Recent data suggest that space heating accounts for about 42% of energy use in U.S. households and about 36% of energy use in commercial buildings.
Homeowners spend an estimated $73 billion or 29 percent of their total energy-related expenditures on space heating alone, whereas commercial buildings spend more than $27 billion or 15 percent annually.
In 2010, space heating in the residential sector produced an estimated 324 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, with commercial buildings adding an additional 161 million metric tons per year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of heating in the US is generated through combustion.
The figure below shows the composition of total heating energy created in the US.
Heat Generation in the US | Source: Buildings Energy Data Book 2017
The predominant fuel used for space heating tends to be natural gas, however some regions of the country use other fuels widely. For example, most rural areas as well as large parts of the Northeast do not have natural gas coverage. Many customers in these areas use heating oil or propane. Combustion as a source of heating is harmful because it also a fossil fuels which emit harmful air pollutants long before they are burned. Carbon emissions trap heat in the atmosphere and lead greatly to global warming.