“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to electrify America’s future.”
-Sen. Martin Heinrich
D-New Mexico

HVAC manufacturers had seats at the table during the White House Electrification Summit, which focused on the electrification of transportation and building systems as a means of reducing the country’s use of fossil fuels, and on the improvements to the power grid that are necessary to implement such changes.

Scott Tew, vice president of sustainability at Trane Technologies, and David Calabrese, senior vice president of government affairs at Daikin U.S. Corp., participated in the December 14 meeting, which also included Biden administration officials, federal lawmakers, and representatives of utility companies and public interest groups.

“It sends a strong, strong signal, I think, that the administration is serious about electrifying buildings, electrifying the economy,” Tew said during a post-summit interview.

“This summit offered a great opportunity for industry stakeholders to discuss with key administration officials how we can address our common goal to address the climate change challenge through heat-pump technology,” said Calabrese in an email.

Summit participants stressed the speed at which electrification needs to happen in order to meet emissions reduction goals, the opportunities for middle-class jobs that can come with electrification and the building of a cleaner grid, and the utility bill savings they say will be available to consumers after investments in widespread electrification and the greater use of heat pumps and other electric appliances.

“We’ve been told, taught a narrative over time, that combating climate change is about sacrifice and increased costs and reduced expectations,” said Alex Laskey, founder and executive chairman of Rewiring America, an electrification nonprofit. “The reality is that with clean electric machines, we don’t need to sacrifice.” Laskey spoke during a panel discussion on building electrification.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told participants that “Deploy, deploy, deploy” has been the motto at her department when it comes to electrification.

“This is our moment all to work together to deploy, deploy, deploy, to get to that clean energy future that we all care about,” Granholm said.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to electrify America’s future,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Electrification incentives in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) were frequently mentioned. The infrastructure bill includes provisions designed to promote grid upgrades and charging networks for electric vehicles. The IRA includes enhanced tax incentives for the adoption of energy efficiency measures and the purchase of high-efficiency HVAC equipment, plus billions in consumer rebates for heat pumps for heating buildings and water, and for other energy-efficient HVAC technology.

More is needed, Tew said later. “We’re going to need more action that has to be deployed at speed in the commercial sector,” he said.

The commercial sector, Tew added, also needs a building performance standard similar to the one recently announced by the federal government, which has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero in 30% of federal government building space, by square footage, by 2030.

Calabrese said the government can help provide more education and training about heat-pump technology as well as more incentives.

“To support widespread adoption throughout the U.S., more education around these technologies, more training programs, and more incentives to encourage installation are key,” he said.

Even with movement toward an electrical grid that makes greater use of renewables, Tew said, increasing the energy efficiency of the technology already in use remains important.

“At the same time we’re reducing fossil fuels on the supply side, we can also reduce our dependency on fossil fuels on the demand side,” he said.

Ali Zaidi, the White House national climate advisor, wrapped up the summit by saying the Biden administration views this as a “decisive decade” for combating climate change.

“You don’t have to flip through the pages of a scientific report. You can see it in our communities, in the fires and in the floods and droughts and in the hurricanes,” Zaidi said. “This is a reality that we face, and it’s not just a story of gloom and doom. It’s a story of hope and opportunity, if we are wise enough to go seek it.”