I want to commend Louise Mezzatesta of River Forest for being an early adopter of the heat pump technology that promises to drastically improve the efficiency of heating our buildings [Electrify buildings? Maybe not quite yet, Viewpoints, June 7].

In her response to previous letter writer Jim Schwartz [Electrify buildings to reduce climate change, Viewpoints, May 31], Ms. Mezzatesta cautions that we aren’t yet ready to electrify our buildings because of insufficient capacity in the electrical grid. Perhaps we can’t electrify them all immediately, but I think his point was that a huge part (70%) of our carbon footprint in Oak Park (and River Forest) is from heating and cooling our buildings and that we need to start changing that now. And, in fact, the village of Oak Park’s Building Code Advisory Commission is moving toward recommending that all new construction in the village be all-electric, starting next year.

So where would the energy for these new buildings come from? Probably a combination of places. As Mr. Schwartz points out, the state’s recent Clean Energy Jobs Act mandates a conversion of our electrical power to fossil-fuel-free sources by 2045. This involves both federal and state subsidies for new renewable energy. It also means that some of the electrical demand for new structures in the village is met through solar installations, as in the case of the new Pete’s Fresh Market on Madison Street just east of Oak Park Avenue.

Ms. Mezzatesta raises the specter of rolling brownouts as occurred in California in 2020 (the first in 20 years). According to the Los Angeles Times of Oct. 6, 2020, those brownouts occurred because of poor planning by state energy planners in the face of a record heat wave and power lines downed by forest fires. California, our most populous state, is one of largest consumers of electricty, but not nearly as large a producer. They buy energy from other states to complement that produced by a wide variety of sources in-state.

Ms. Mezzatesta also states that “electricity is not cleaner than gas.” But how can it not be cleaner if her heat pump is more than twice as efficient as a gas furnace, which most are? Furthermore, with approximately half of our electricity being produced by nuclear power — with zero emissions — I would say that electrical energy is certainly cleaner than that generated through burning gas in our boilers and furnaces.

How long the nukes will last is anyone’s guess. Several are on their way out as plants. They will be replaced, however, by wind or solar, which is now cheaper to produce than coal-generated electricity. Where to place that solar is another problem. Rooftops, when available, are a great option because they don’t require transmission through the grid.

We all need to work together to convert to an all-electric economy, which means converting our devices, our heating, our transportation, and also adding solar and wind to the grid when we can.

Nick Bridge, an Oak Park resident, is a local artist, a member of the Plan Commission for the Village of Oak Park, and active with the Oak Park Climate Action Network. He is also a former park commissioner and former chair of the village’s Environmental and Energy Commission as well as the Public Arts Commission (now defunct).

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