Building Electrification Initiative


of a typical residential building's energy use comes from burning fossil fuels to create heat and hot water

Up to 40%

Of greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. Cities come from providing heat and hot water to buildings

The Problem

In many North American cities, burning fossil fuels—typically oil or gas—to provide heating, cooling, and hot water to buildings can be a significant source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, which are harmful gases that are the cause of global climate change. For a typical residential building, this can account for 50-75% of building energy use and emissions. In cities with colder climates, the fossil fuel-based energy used in buildings can account for 40% or more of total citywide emissions.


The Solution

Minimizing the use of fossil fuels is critical to averting the worst impacts of climate change. Fossil fuel-based building systems, such as boilers and furnaces, will need be phased out and replaced with clean and renewable energy sources. High-efficiency electric air source heat pumps and heat pump water heaters offer a cleaner alternative to typical oil- and gas-fired building systems. These technologies use electricity, which can be increasingly powered by renewable energy, instead of fossil fuels to provide heat. They also provide high-efficiency cooling for buildings, which is another key benefit as cities face increasingly extreme heat due to climate change.


A Market Transformation Led by Cities

The Building Electrification Initiative empowers cities with tools to accelerate the transition to clean and high efficiency heating for buildings.

The Building Electrification Initiative builds on the work of leading cities, supported by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network and the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, to pilot strategies to scale up the electrification of building heating and cooling systems. Over the past three years, a growing number of cities have become active in this work to transform their local and regional building markets. Originally called the “Thermal Decarbonization Initiative for Cities,” the Building Electrification Initiative has attracted interest and participation from more than 50 North American cities and a dozen global manufacturers, and was most recently highlighted as one of seven transformational opportunities for cities in the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance’s groundbreaking Game Changers Report.

Six pioneering cities have led the way as the initial participants in the Building Electrification Initiative. Additional cities will be added in the coming year.