Climate Connections: Help solve the climate crisis – electrify everything
Shanti Devins & Abby Huseth
There’s a tangible solution to addressing the climate crisis: electrification.
Campaigns to "electrify everything" - from buildings to transportation - are ramping up around the country, world and right here in Missoula. In fact, Climate Smart Missoula is hosting an Electrify Homes Tour on Saturday, April 29, plus a self-guided “virtual” tour option throughout the month of May, as an opportunity to see several electrification projects Missoulians are working on in their neighborhoods.
Hopefully seeing what others in our community are doing, you’ll feel inspired to electrify, well, everything. First, let’s back up and talk about why electrification matters.
Locally, energy use in residential buildings accounts for 23% of our community’s greenhouse gas emissions (see here). There’s an opportunity to transition our home appliances that run on methane gas to those that are powered by (increasingly) clean electricity. From a carbon pollution perspective, it’s a big deal! Pound for pound, the climate impact of methane is more than 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.
In addition to having a major impact on our climate, methane appliances have a direct impact on our health. Combustion from these appliances can lead to indoor air pollution levels that exceed EPA’s legal limits for outdoor air pollution. Gas stoves in the home are responsible for 12.7% of childhood asthma cases and other health risks, including neurocognitive decline. In other words, there is more than one reason to think about electrifying your home or commercial building sooner rather than later.
As we work to replace gas appliances with electric ones, we’re also working to meet our increasing energy needs with clean electricity. Although our electric supply is still powered by fossil fuels to varying degrees (in Montana, NorthWestern Energy’s electric supply is ~ 65% clean; Missoula Electric Co-op’s is ~95%), there are amazing opportunities to bring in more renewable energy and "green the grid,” like adding solar to your home, business, or non-profit building.
And, great news, there’s more funding available now than ever before to help you offset the costs of these projects.
The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) includes new incentives for building-electrification projects for homeowners and renters, plus solar and electric vehicles. Federal tax credits are available now, and direct rebates that will reduce point-of-sale costs for lower and middle-income folks will be available later this year or early 2024.
In addition, there are local incentives that can be stacked with IRA funds to further reduce project costs, as well as low-interest loan options for solar and energy efficiency projects through both Clearwater Credit Union and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. Now is a great time to start making your plan to go electric and take advantage of these great programs. (You can find a lot more information on financing, tax credits and rebates at ElectrifyMissoula.org.)
Now, say you’re motivated to go electric, and (hopefully) not too daunted by the financing side. How to get started?
That’s where our Electrify Homes Tour comes in! The electrification process looks different for everyone, which is why there’s no substitute for actually seeing local examples in action.
Next Saturday, April 29th, you’re invited to join our team as we bike and carpool to homes that have made big – and small – moves to go electric. We’ll visit with homeowners who have installed a heat-pump water heater and have a plan to replace their aging gas furnace; we’ll meet a family who uses a cargo electric bike as their second car (with two small kiddos who love it!); we’ll tour an all-electric ADU with an induction stove and heat pump; learn about going solar, and much more!
Following the tour, join us for an informal drop-in happy hour from 3-5 PM at Draught Works Brewery to learn more about the movement to Electrify Missoula and how everyone can take part. (Tour participants receive a beverage of their choice, on us!). You’re welcome to join us at Draught Works even if you cannot join the tour.
Can’t make it on the 29th? Sign up to participate in our self-guided version of the tour, happening all throughout the month of May - which also happens to be Bike Month! Celebrate spring with a DIY tour, featuring video interviews and prizes for completing trivia questions at stops along the way. Sign up here to receive information about how to participate.
As the movement to Electrify grows, we’ll continue to collect and share stories about neighbors across our community who are taking steps and making plans, to inspire and encourage others to do the same. Have your own Electrify story to share? Let us know.
Finally, there are lots of other ways you can get involved in sustainability and solutions-oriented efforts for Earth Month and beyond. This Saturday is Earth Day and there’s a lot happening in Missoula! You can Run for the Trees to benefit Missoula’s urban forest (crucial to keeping us cool during hot summers); join the Clark Fork Coalition’s annual cleanup to keep our beloved river healthy; connect with fellow creatures at WildWalk and WildFest downtown; or come say hello to us and lots of other climate and sustainability groups at MUD’s annual Earth Day festivities. Our online calendar includes these and other activities here.
Every Earth Month, we’re reminded of how lucky we are to be part of this vibrant community – and we’re inspired to keep working towards our vision of a climate-safe, equitable, and resilient Missoula and world. Join us!
This article was written by Shanti Devins, Program Director, and Abby Huseth, Deputy Director, at Climate Smart Missoula. Climate Smart Missoula brings this Climate Connections column to you two Fridays of every month. Learn more about our work and sign up for our e-newsletter at missoulaclimate.org.
April 29 Electrify Missoula Events
1PM – 3PM: In-Person Electrify Homes Tour
Meet at Draught Works Brewery ready to ride your bike or carpool to four or five stops in the Northside and Westside neighborhoods. The tour will conclude back at Draught Works Brewery where participants are invited to stay for conversation and a beverage of their choice. Registration is required and space is limited. Register now.
3PM – 5PM: Drop-In Electrify Happy Hour at Draught Works
All are invited. Join us at Draught Works Brewery for a beverage and informal conversation about the movement to Electrify Missoula and how everyone can take part.