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January 24, 2023

New Report Tackles Maryland’s Next Climate Challenge: Electrifying Homes, Especially for Low-income Households

Maryland state leaders should prioritize low-income households as they pull together $2 billion in state and federal funding to leave no household behind as Maryland goes electric

Contacts

Zahra Ahmad, zahmad@earthjustice.org, (517) 898-0924

Maryland

Healthy housing advocates and researchers today published a report on how Maryland can electrify its housing sector, and notably, set a national trend by focusing on electrifying low-income households by 2030 to ensure no families are left behind.

The report, Charting A Pathway to Maryland’s Equitable Clean Energy Future: Electrification and Building Upgrades for Low-income Residences, highlights Maryland’s new era of climate leadership and maps a plan to electrify its building sector with four key policy proposals to electrify low-income households that might otherwise be the last to benefit from this key clean energy and clean air transition.

Electrifying homes in Maryland is especially urgent considering new research making waves this month that shows gas stoves are responsible for 12.7% of childhood asthma cases in the United States. This is because gas stoves can emit heavy doses of nitrogen dioxide, a form of air pollution known to trigger asthma and other breathing problems. These issues likely only worsen in low-income households who are likely to live in high-density spaces with less ventilation. But it’s not just about stoves — it’s about all appliances in our homes. New electric options like a two-way heat pump to replace dated gas furnaces, and electric hot water heaters to replace old gas versions, are on the market and outdoing their old gas counterparts. They’re more energy efficient, work faster, help protect our climate, and won’t pollute homes.

“When it comes to our homes where so much of our daily lives play out, every Marylander deserves a modern upgrade and clean air with healthy electric appliances,” said Susan Stevens Miller, a senior attorney on Earthjustice Right to Zero Campaign in the DMV. “It’s time to build an electric future for households in Maryland at every income level, using the incredible $2 billion available in federal and state funding streams to do so.”

Maryland’s existing housing assistance and energy policies are disparate and uncoordinated, leaving the state’s 450,000 low-income residents underserved and leaving key climate opportunities on the table. These households are also likely to face housing challenges, such as deferment of weatherization and wiring upgrades, health and safety issues like lead paint or mold, and landlords’ limited incentives to upgrade their properties (60% of low-income Marylanders are renters).

The report outlines four innovative steps Maryland can take to ensure every household is included as the state electrifies its homes. First, Maryland should prioritize electrifying and weatherizing residences with low incomes by 2030. Maryland should also launch a whole-home retrofit program providing weatherization services like improved insulation, roof repairs, wiring fixes, and energy bill assistance to complement electrification. Other steps include combining the $2 billion available in state and federal resources to speed up Maryland’s climate actions, and long-term utility planning to decommission the gas distribution system.

“This report articulates a clear and achievable pathway to equitable residential electrification that prioritizes the needs of low-income households and historically disinvested communities,” said Ruth Ann Norton, president and CEO of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI). “By aligning, braiding, and coordinating the multiple funding streams and programs identified in the report, we have an opportunity to significantly improve the health and wealth of hundreds of thousands of Maryland residents and ensure our state’s future climate-related investments help catalyze racial and environmental justice.”

“Maryland has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle the climate crisis and bring health, safety, and economic benefits to nearly half a million low-income households,” said Ashita Gona, senior associate on RMI’s Carbon-free Buildings Team. “RMI is proud to partner with Earthjustice, GHHI, and Sierra Club on this report, which explains how Maryland can use recent and unique funding streams, including the Inflation Reduction Act, to kickstart a whole-home retrofit program that will improve living conditions, alleviate energy burdens, and provide clean electric appliances for low-income Marylanders.”

“It is critical that Maryland marshal all available resources to enable low- and moderate-income communities to benefit from cleaner, efficient, climate-friendly electricity and healthier homes." Josh Tulkin, state director of Sierra Club Maryland.

Girl playing in the kitchen and pretending to be a chef, while cooking on an electric rangetop appliance.

(gilaxia / Getty Images)

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