Electrify everything?

Dear Sam,

I have read that the key to future low-emission energy consumption is to “electrify everything,” but if everyone and everything is electrified, wouldn’t that put too much pressure on our electric grid? How would it work if all homes and cars were powered with electricity?



Dear Katie,

This is a great question with perfect timing as the Minneapolis City Council passed the Climate Equity Plan in July. I reached out to the experts at Electrify Everything MN for an answer. Here is what they had to say:

“This is a common question that we at Electrify Everything MN receive. It’s a prudent one to ask. Grid reliability is critical to the running of society today. We use electricity for lighting, cooling, ventilation, computing, hospital equipment, and many other machines and devices in our homes, schools, businesses, and public and community spaces.

Electrification is the process of switching more of our appliances and machines, such as heating equipment and vehicles, from being powered by fossil fuels to electricity. The State of MN recently mandated that electricity be carbon-free by 2040, which means that electrified homes and cars will be powered with clean energy.

To answer your question in short – the electrification of homes and cars and the impacts on the grid do not keep us up at night.

Why? Electrification is an ongoing process and is something that will take time to happen. Residents will incrementally swap out equipment over time as they are ready to transition or as their existing equipment fails. Even so, an analysis for the City of Minneapolis of its 88,000 1–4 unit homes by the Center For Energy And Environment shows that the grid can accommodate electrification, including electric vehicles, if implemented with readily available strategies like weatherization, load control, and dual fuel heating. 

Let’s break this down, starting with weatherization. The primary use of energy in our homes is heating. The more we can reduce the heating need (also called heating load), the less energy must be provided. The best way to reduce heating load is through weatherization with insulation and air sealing. An energy audit through Home Energy Squad (which is free for qualified residents) can inform homeowners of their options to tighten up their homes. Did you know that the average MN home has enough tiny gaps throughout the house to equate to a two-by-two-foot hole in the wall, or like leaving a standard-size window open all year long? The better air-sealed and insulated the home, the less heating and cooling your system will need to provide, reducing the electricity required.

Load control is a term that means targeting and shifting when appliances and devices use electricity. For example, utility rates can be set to incentivize people to charge EVs overnight, which helps shift the EV energy load to a time when energy is in less demand. There are many other ways in which utilities can target and cycle power.

Dual fuel heating in our climate with our current utility rates can also be a practical approach, particularly in the short and medium term. Dual fuel heating typically means having electricity as a primary heating source and a gas furnace or boiler for winter’s coldest temperatures. If a severe cold snap puts strain on the electric grid, a homeowner could have the flexibility to heat with gas.

If we deploy none of these mitigating strategies mentioned above, that same CEE analysis shows we have quite a runway. 25% of homes could fully electrify before the grid might start having issues. The pace of electrification gives us time to deploy the strategies we’ve noted and more. Momentum is behind decarbonization, and more people want to work on it. The clean energy industry is growing exponentially to implement strategies that will get us there. We are confident the electric grid will continue to innovate and evolve, just as it has reliably done for decades.”