Another Voice: Prioritize energy conservation before building electrification | Opinion |

2022-08-01 19:57:36 By : Ms. Shelly Qiu

Question: If you can heat a home using the energy equivalent of a hair dryer, how much does it matter if the hair dryer runs on gas or electric?

As a green building advocate, New York State’s building electrification plan both thrills and scares me.

Building electrification would be great for me, as I advocate for thermal storage energy-conservation technologies that allow building tenants to shift heating and cooling energy demand to off-peak times. That means less stress on the grid, and less money to heat and cool a building.

Consider these two simple systems: Externally insulated concrete walls, and interconnected hollow core concrete floors. Concrete absorbs and stores massive amounts of energy. Then, it slowly releases that energy into the building, moderates indoor air temperature, dampens temperature swings and produces exceptionally comfortable indoor environments.

Concrete does not burn, and a bullet will not pass through it. Concrete buildings can stand for hundreds of years.  

These concrete wall and floor systems have proven they can substantially reduce operating-carbon for the life of a building. Recent innovations allow for low embodied-carbon concrete formulas that add extra value in the fight against global warming.

Today, we have readily affordable Zero Energy Ready (ZER) buildings, which require just a small amount of renewable energy to make a building carbon neutral. Funding need not be an issue: Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funds for large commercial developments offer nearly unlimited funds for enhanced energy efficiency.

Here is the scary part of building electrification: In this space, there have been credible arguments made for delaying building electrification, and credible arguments made for implementing it on an aggressive timetable.

Who should one believe? At what cost?

If we move too quickly, by some credible estimates there could be catastrophic economic consequences for New York State residents.

Other credible sources discount these potential negative outcomes.

Do scientists have a history of failing to accurately predict the future? I recall predictions of a coming ice age, and running out of oil.

Perhaps, if we move more slowly on building electrification, we might remember that New York is one state in one country in the world. We might also consider that New York already contributes some of the lowest carbon emissions per capita in the U.S.

If we more aggressively prioritize energy conservation, we can see instant results.   

Think about local projects that receive taxpayer funding: Affordable housing, mixed-use developments, warehouses, industrial facilities, a certain stadium, schools, even single-family homes.

In return for taxpayer support, taxpayers should receive a commitment to construct buildings with low embodied-carbon and low operating-carbon, using local materials and local labor.

A few facts are indisputable: energy conserved will never contribute to global warming. Second: right now, there are products made in Western New York that can be used to construct affordable Zero Energy Ready buildings. Third: Talk is cheap; action matters.  

Marty Walters is general manager at, an energy conservation company.

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