Book Review
Electrify, An Optimist's Playbook for Our Clean Energy Future

Stephen Lewis

February 2022

Climate Change is happening fast. To avoid the worst impacts, the countries of the world need to move quickly to stop emitting planet-warming greenhouse gases and instead move to clean renewable energy. The target is 100% renewable energy for all aspects of our economy by 2050.  The changes required are massive but essential, and yet many doubt whether we can achieve these goals in time.  

 

Saul Griffith is not one of the pessimists. His new book, Electrify, An Optimist’s Playbook For Our Clean Energy Future says it is not only possible, but can be done with all the technology we have today.  And even more encouraging, we can do so without having to make big sacrifices in our lifestyles.  Further, we can create 25 million new jobs and not bankrupt our country doing it – in other words, a true green new deal.

How is that possible, you may ask? Simply put, the mantra is electrify everything, and do it as we replace the major energy using machines in our lives at the end of their useful life. So, when your furnace or oil boiler goes, put in a heat pump, and when you replace your car, make your next one electric, and while you are at it, if your roof is suitable, add as much solar as possible. And the question then is how can most people afford to do that? Mr. Griffith shows not only is this financially in their long-term interest to do so, but, with support from green energy loans from the Government, consumers can get over the higher upfront costs to get the long term savings. 

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Saul Griffith has spent years studying our energy usage in every aspect of our economy and how much renewable energy would be needed to satisfy our future needs. He understands how we make energy today, how our grid works, and what would need to change to support 100% renewable energy with enough capacity to assure no blackouts or brownouts in winter or when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. Of course batteries and other energy storage solutions will be needed to smooth out the supply and demand.  If you are interested in a great summary of the how and the why of his thesis, with excellent charts and data, this book is for you.  It is an easy read and very informative.  Anyone working on clean energy policy should read it, and it is uplifting to see what can be if we all want to achieve it.

 

But Mr. Griffith has gone one step further than just say we should electrify everything. More practically, he is the founder of the nonprofit, Rewiring America, which is dedicated to showing people in their own lives how to electrify everything in their homes and garages.

 

In December, Joel Rosenberg of Rewiring America released a handbook entitled Electrify Everything in Your Home, A Guide to Comfy, Healthy, Carbon-Free Living.  This guide can be downloaded at rewiringamerica.org

 

This is the best guide for anyone who wants a greener lifestyle but is not sure how to do it exactly.  First and foremost, it explains what to do now and how to prepare for your electrified green energy life of the future.  It starts with understanding what your opportunities are and how to be sure you are ready when a cooktop, a clothes dryer, or a furnace dies in your home. Being ready means knowing what your electrical panel size is, how much capacity you have, and if you are wired for these future devices.  When you have any electrical work done in your home, it will pay off in the future if you have your electrician put in and wire some new circuits in your home if you will need them.  


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For example, do you have enough power coming to your cooktop for that new induction stovetop, or do you have enough power going to the garage for that car charger in your future.  This is about laying the groundwork. The guide will then discuss each opportunity to save a lot of carbon emissions and excess electrical demand in your home, what factors to consider, and how these devices work.

 

The reason we all should follow this advice is that anytime we replace one of these machines with a bad choice for the climate, it will be in service for decades and will continue our reliance on fossil fuels. With a little education and forethought, you will not miss these critical and cost saving opportunities to go green.  

 

Stephen Lewis is our Greater Hartford Group Chair and serves on the Legislative and CTFA committees of Sierra Club Connecticut.