Going completely electric is doable by 2037 if we close the imagination gap: Sustainable Orillia
On February 25 of this year, Atlantic magazine published an article by writer Derek Thompson, titled “Forget Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” a title that should grab the attention of anyone who has tried to do exactly those things – reduce, reuse and recycle – over the past few decades. The article is an interview with Saul Griffith, author of the book Electrify: An Optimist’s Handbook for Our Clean Energy Futurepublished by Penguin Random House Canada in 2021.
Griffith has a simple message for the world: “Electrify everything!”
Griffith explains further in the interview.
“Electrifying everything literally means electrifying everything we do. Electrify our vehicles. Electrify our homes, including the kitchen, laundry room, basement, attic and garage. Electrifying our small businesses and commercial buildings. Electrifying our industrial processes… We then need to produce all this zero-emission electricity, ie solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, but also nuclear. We can also use biofuels…”
Griffith continues: Very simply, the vast majority of our emissions will be eliminated by electrifying everything. It also materializes the important decisions in the life of a person, a consumer or a citizen: what you drive or ride, what powers the place where you live, what powers your devices. And it can be done – by 2037, he argues.
What’s so appealing about Griffith’s advice is its simplicity. Too often, environmentalists, business people and government spokespersons get bogged down in the complexity of what the changes needed to address the climate crisis really look like. As he observes, we haven’t received any positive message about what a clean energy future looks like.
We must bridge the gap of imagination. There are, of course, hundreds of changes, big and small, that our society – our world – will have to make if we are to limit the rise in global temperatures and avoid what many are now calling “catastrophic” consequences. But it all comes down to Griffith’s “electrifying everything.”
We at Orillia can begin this process of electrifying everything now. Orillia is supplied with emission-free electricity, thanks to the Orillia Water Light and Power Commission’s decision over 100 years ago to harness our local water power.
Ontario’s electricity is also mostly emission-free, with the exception of electricity generated by gas-fired power plants (only 6% of generation currently), energy that could be replaced by solar and wind power. with an aggressive plan to do so. We should keep nuclear power, probably, but that too is emission free. (Author Griffith bases his argument on the maintenance and use, even expansion in some countries, of nuclear energy.)
Therefore, home and business owners in Orillia can proceed with the immediate electrification of their homes, transportation and businesses, knowing that this will, over time, result in Orillia becoming a zero community. emission or zero emission.
Where to start?
For homeowners and homeowners, Griffith notes the goal is to move to an electric vehicle (or public transit), replace fossil fuel heating with heat pumps, and power everything else in the home. or the electrical company. This means phasing out natural gas, a common source of heating and cooking in many homes. Although there is resistance to this from some consumers as well as gas companies, a recent report detailing the dangers – for children, in particular – of the gases given off by gas stoves (methane and carbon monoxide being the main ones among them) should be an additional incentive to do so. Basically, it’s a health issue as well as a climate change issue.
Another step would be to start adding rooftop solar panels to our community. Any roof that catches the sun can also generate electricity, as can the tall buildings in our city – factories, apartment buildings and, yes, even our recreation center.
Griffith notes, “Over 30% of Australian homes now have rooftop solar panels, compared to just 3% in the US.” Canada’s percentage is likely lower than the US percentage because it’s states like California and Arizona, in sunnier regions, that have started rooftop solar programs. What’s needed to trigger a more aggressive program is to simplify “soft costs” like permits, inspections, customer purchases and overhead, Griffith argues.
As for the shift to electric vehicles, it is already starting to happen. Anyone planning to trade in their current vehicle in the next 10 years should consider buying an electric vehicle. Many are on the market now, including Ford’s F-150 trucks, and more are on the way. These new models also come with the potential for longer range, although a necessary action alongside the production of electric vehicles is the construction of a charging network throughout our province and country. Although this process has begun, much of the last few years has been wasted in not taking more aggressive action on this issue.
Griffith offers an intriguing look at one of the consequences of the shift to electric vehicles. He notes that if you take a suburb of 1,000 homes, those families could be spending $3.5 million a year on gasoline. When these families fill up with gas, the money immediately leaves the community and goes to Texas or Saudi Arabia. But if the cars run on electricity that comes from their own roofs and homes, no money leaves the community. You can take that $3.5 million and build new classrooms. It’s really exciting for me. It’s an idea that should excite us all.
We also leave the summary to Griffith. There are a few decisions that really matter: where you choose to live, how you power your home, and what you drive. That’s really what matters. So I’m thinking about that over a 10-year horizon, which is the urgency we need. I’m saying the next time you buy a water heater, the next time you buy a car, in the next 10 years, make it electric. If we make a few decisions well, we can solve climate change together.
The next time you’re talking with family or friends about how to tackle the challenges of the climate crisis we face, just remember: ‘electrify everything’.
— Written by Fred Larsen