I appreciate Jim Schwartz’s good intentions in his One View of May 31 [Electrify buildings to reduce climate change, Viewpoints, May 31]. Unfortunately, total electrification isn’t feasible yet. Why not? Capacity and reliability. Also, it turns out that in Illinois, electricity isn’t really “clean.”
We don’t have sufficient electrical grid capacity to accommodate going totally electric. Think California. Think rolling brown-outs. In places where the power grid is even less reliable than in OPRF, people have back-up generators powered by, you guessed it, gas. I’ve never experienced a natural gas outage. Have you? But even in our area, I’ve experienced plenty of power outages.
Electricity is not cleaner than gas. In Illinois our electricity is primarily generated by nuclear power and coal. We have the largest number of nuclear power plants in the country. OK, we do rank fifth in wind-powered electricity generation. But do the math. Use more electricity = burn more coal. Any chance we’ll want to build more nuclear power plants? Would you have one in your neighborhood?
We humans have ignored the climate warning signs for decades. Now in the 11th hour, we’re in bad trouble. So we’re supposed to jump on mandating electrification because, superficially, the optics look good. Yep, about as good as those trusty fluorescent light bulbs that Al Gore was touting a few years back.
I’m as concerned about climate change as Mr. Schwartz. I do agree with him about heat pumps. We installed heat pumps at both our Oak Park home and at our River Forest condo. We definitely saw a significant drop in our electric bill as a result. However, I can’t support the notion of total electrification at the present time. Electrification could be the answer, but first we’d need to update the power grid to be able to handle the load. Then we’d just need to figure out how to generate the power cleanly and in massive quantities.