Democratizing electrification to electrify democracy
March 17, 2023
Democratizing Electrification to Electrify Democracy
I'd like to welcome a new electric champion to Rewiring America.
Stacey Abrams is many very impressive things: an accomplished legislator, an impactful political organizer, a best-selling author of both fact and fiction, a talented tax attorney, and an internationally revered fighter for democracy. She’s also into heat pumps.
You can read why Stacey’s joining Rewiring America in her own words. But in one of our first conversations, she told us of her personal connection to Cancer Alley, the stretch between New Orleans and Baton Rouge that is home to over 200 plants and refineries that are responsible for around a quarter of U.S. petrochemical production. Stacey grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi, just an hour down the road. She wrote her college thesis on the environmental injustice of the region. She then joined the just-created Office of Environmental Justice in the Clinton Administration. When she got to the Georgia legislature, she worked across the aisle to find common ground on the environment. And just four years ago, she founded the Southern Economic Advancement Project to draw explicit links between poverty, health, and climate in her home region.
That’s the thing about electrification. It helps on all three counts: economic security, health, and climate. Our modeling shows the average U.S. household can save $1,800 a year with an electric home and electric vehicle. That is meaningful in a nation where about half of us tell the Federal Reserve that we would have difficulty meeting a $400 emergency expense. And the Inflation Reduction Act provides households with an average of $10,600 in assistance to buy appliances and weatherization when it’s time to replace or repair what’s existing.
Not long after we started talking to Stacey, I met a newly-elected Public Service Commissioner from Louisiana named Davante Lewis. Davante and I were on a fireside chat panel together. Louisiana is one of 11 states where public service or public utility commissioners are elected, and his district lies in the heart of Cancer Alley.
Davante told a story about why electrification mattered to him. It wasn't what I was expecting him to share: a way to more affordably keep people comfortable in their homes. Instead, it was that electrification, and the virtual power plants we discussed that day, were a path to grid reliability and resilience. Why was that important to him? Because when the grid breaks down, “even for one minute,” those plants need to flare whatever chemicals they are catalyzing. Flaring means they burn off the gas while they can’t pump it into the pipes, and that’s bad for the planet and bad for nearby people. The flaring is done in the name of community safety, even though the effect furthers the rates of illness and health catastrophes.
Electrification is the most equity-centered climate strategy we have in our toolbox. That starts with the climate imperative, because the planet does not care whether the furnace, the water heater, and the car are located at a wealthy address or one that’s financially struggling. The planet is simply counting the emissions. Every machine must be electrified as it comes time to be replaced. There is no time for a “trickle-down” climate strategy.
Electrification is a simple idea. We don’t need to invent new things or wait for someone to save us. A better and more abundant future we can all share is right in front of us. There is a lot of work to do. But I believe deeply that committing to this path does more than give us a fighting chance for our planet (which, by itself, is a lot). It helps sow and reinforce the social fabric that binds us together, giving families and communities across the country a way to more tangibly realize their potential.
Those are ambitions worth pursuing. And I am much more confident in our ability to make good on them with Stacey Abrams adding electrifying America to her to-do list.
Help us help you, electrifier?
We would love to hear about your experience trying to electrify your household, whether you’re just starting out or far along in your journey. We’ll show you some tools we are working on to make the electrification process easier, and ask you for your feedback. We’re not looking for a rigorous assessment, just your initial experiences and thoughts as a curious electrifier. We promise it will be fun.
It will not take more than 40 minutes, and you will be helping us enormously in our work to electrify everything.
From The Wire
⚡ Your Home Electrification Questions, Answered! Our partners at ImportantNotImportant sat down (virtually) with our very own Joel Rosenberg, alongside John Semmelhack of The Comfort Squad for an electric-themed Q&A. Heat pumps are mentioned 45 times.
⚡ Stacey speaks! Why Stacey Abrams is working on electric stoves, Bloomberg. Stacey Abrams: politician, novelist and now electrification advocate joining electrification nonprofit as senior counsel. Fast Company.
⚡ Ari speaks! Our CEO talks Stacey announcement and what’s next for Rewiring America in a Q&A with Climate Tech VC, Rewiring America’s electric future.