Curtis Park Electric Stars seek to reduce carbon emissions

Think globally, act locally. This adage from the 1970s couldn’t be more apt as scientists, governments and nonprofits point to the urgency of addressing climate change. To this end, a group of Curtis Park women calling themselves Electric Stars have banded together to focus on reducing carbon emissions through residential electrification right here in Curtis Park.

Mary Lou Flint of Cutter Way points to the new condenser for her recently installed all-electric heat pump heating and cooling system. Outdoor units for heat pump electric systems have the capability to run in reverse and make hot air instead of only cool air. Photo/Steve Meyer

Residential electrification involves replacing gas appliances with those that are electric. Carbon emissions from California buildings represent 25% of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions, which California aims to reduce by 40% overall in the next decade.

Electricity is already our cleanest source of energy, especially with increased production through alternative sources. Converting to electric appliances, including water heaters, heating and cooling systems, clothes dryers and cook tops eliminates gas use in homes.

Unhitching our homes from gas will take some willingness to try new technologies. To this end, the six women with backgrounds in energy and climate change are working to have SMUD use Curtis Park as a pilot project. Their initial meeting with SMUD chief executive officer and general manager Paul Lau indicates this is promising.

There’s an advantage in Curtis Park where Rosanna Herber, a SMUD board of director, and Cheri Davis, SMUD residential electric expert, live. Both are involved in the Electric Stars along with Nancy McKeever of Cutter Way, formerly with the California Energy Commission, and Kathy Les of Portola Way and founder of the Curtis Park Energy Stars. Also assisting are Anne Stausboll, former chair with the Mayors’ Climate Commission, and Elise Fandrich, a climate activist with 350 Sacramento.

“Switching from natural gas fuel to electricity to power home appliances will substantially cut carbon emissions, improve health and safety, and enhance comfort,” said Nancy McKeever. “Many in Curtis Park are already getting on board, but let’s up the pace.”

Members of the group have converted all or parts of their homes to electric. Now they are hoping to help others learn more and follow their lead.

Mary Lou Flint of Cutter Way has taken the first steps toward electrification. “The SMUD rebate for our HVAC system was significant and saved us $5,600 on the installation, which included a new whole house fan and better insulation,” she said.

A study commissioned by SMUD in 2020 calculated that all-electric homes would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 60%. That’s because SMUD’s 2020 electric power mix was about 50% carbon-free. The carbon reduction from residential electrification will increase over time as the grid reduces its dependency on carbon-based electrical generation.

SMUD offers attractive rebates to convert from gas to electric appliances. Up to a $2,500 rebate per home is available to convert to heat pump water heaters, $3,000 rebate per unit for heat pump HVAC units, and $750 rebate for induction cooktops.

Homeowners will benefit from better indoor air quality, improved comfort (HVAC and water heating), faster and more responsive cooking (induction), and a cleaner environment. The rebates can make it attractive to convert, especially if you are in the market to replace your water heater or HVAC system.

The Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change, a joint effort of the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento, set a goal for their cities to become carbon zero by 2045. Sacramento is moving toward this goal by considering an ordinance to require electrification of new buildings up to three stories starting in 2023 and buildings four stories and higher by 2026. While this is an important step, there are many more existing homes that when retrofitted with electric appliances will directly help achieve the carbon zero goal.

Contact Nancy McKeever at [email protected] or Cheri Davis at [email protected] with questions or interest in being part of the residential electrification effort.

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