Five Steps to Decarbonize the Residential Sector

We all know the decarbonization is the big goal. It’s in the news, reports, and policy discussions. But how do we actually get down and dirty to make it happen for the more than 24 million residential sector households in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic? Well, using NEEP’s newest resource—The Smart Energy Home: Driving Residential Building Decarbonization—as a guide, let us count the ways.

Here is our take on five steps to decarbonize the residential sector:

Step 1: It’s Electric

As we’ve outlined before, in order for the region to meet our aggressive carbon reductions goals, we need to do three key things simultaneously: get more efficient, clean the grid, and electrify end uses to take advantage of clean generation. In other words, we need to strategically electrify our region. If strategic electrification is successful, however, there will be growth of home electric loads, a contrast to the traditional load-reduction goals of energy efficiency. Don’t panic, though, we can manage, because of the next step.

Step 2: Shift it All Around

In the all-electric homes of the not-too-distant future, many loads can actually be shifted to run, pause, or charge at strategically-beneficial times. This is especially true for load-storing end-uses such as battery storage, water heaters, or electric vehicles where charging can be flexible. In well-insulated houses with an air source heat pump, there is also a huge opportunity to pre-heat or pre-cool homes to avoid system peaks.

Step 3: Clean Up That Grid

While homes are electrifying end uses that can be shifted, simultaneous renewable generation for electricity is growing both in large and small scale. These renewables, however, are by their nature variable. External conditions, such as clouds and wind, can have a major impact on their generation. There are also many more of them to manage—with rooftop solar on more homes and large scale renewables distributed all around—and so there is more complexity added to higher variability.

Step 4: Homes and the Grid: a Match Made in Heaven

Flexible end uses that can absorb clean, low-carbon electricity when available, and can be shifted away from system capacity at peak times, are critical to managing this growing electric need. Major end uses such as HVAC, water heating, major appliances, and distributed energy resources must now have the ability to send, receive, and react to signals through connected functionality and some level of smarts.

Step 5: Smart Energy Homes Save the Day

Currently sold because of amenity appeal, smart technologies are already on shelves today, and smart functionality is being built into a growing range of distributed resources and electric products. These home end uses can send and receive signs and will increasingly be connected to a home energy management system (HEMS) that serves as the brain or air traffic controller to orchestrate use of electricity based on the needs of the consumer, the grid, or any other relevant signals. These smart end uses and brain-like HEMS can manage and match “generation-to-load” to ensure that electric, efficient homes of the future are smart energy homes moving towards a decarbonized residential sector.

There’s a lot to dig into here, but don’t worry, NEEP wants to help you make sense of it all. Through our report and upcoming webinar on March 20, we can set you on a path to build towards the smart energy homes of the future pictured below.


In order to move us from


... the smart energy home can and will drive residential building decarbonization. NEEP is excited to work with you to get there!

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