The electrify-everything movement is coming for your gas heat, stove, and clothes dryer.  

The New York legislature is currently considering a ban on gas hookups in new construction after 2023, which would force all new homes built after that to be all-electric. Because of higher costs of electric appliances, this could drive up housing costs for prospective homeowners. 

In addition, the state’s Climate Action Council, tasked with implementing the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), proposes to ban the sale of gas furnaces and hot water heaters after 2030 and gas stoves and clothes dryers after 2035.  

Given the 15-20 year lifetime of these appliances, this means even existing homes would have to go all-electric by around 2050, the CLCPA’s target date for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Because of the higher operating costs of electric appliances, this will impose large costs on those who own older homes. 

But going all-electric can cost tens of thousands of dollars, an amount far beyond the means of many New Yorkers. Sometimes it doesn’t pay off because electric appliances can have higher operating costs. When it does pay off through lower electric bills – achieved through extensive housing shell retrofitting and use of heat pumps – cost-recovery can take many decades, even beyond the life of the owner. 

Over 4 million New York households use natural gas heat. To fully electrify them all by 2050 would require electrifying nearly 150,000 homes per year, a massive and very expensive challenge.   

And there is no clear path toward funding it. The Climate Action Council has refused to consider how the electrification transition will be paid for. And the recent, record-breaking $220 billion state budget makes only a token attempt to pay down the huge cost of CLCPA compliance.

Eventually someone’s going to have to face up to the tough decisions about how New York’s supposed all-electric transition will be funded. Hopefully it’s not on the backs of struggling homeowners who suddenly find their furnaces going out in mid-winter. 

CLCPA supporters seem to imagine everyone will simply switch to high-efficiency heat pumps. But without extensive subsidies the upfront cost of them will be too much for many homeowners to bear. That will force many to buy resistance electric heaters, which are cheaper to buy but more expensive to operate. This will increase the number of New Yorkers struggling with energy poverty. 

And, perversely, the state only offers rebates on geothermal heat pumps, the most expensive type. It’s a pure giveaway to the well-off that leaves poorer homeowners out in the cold. 

A better approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to use hybrid heating systems. These use cost-effective air-source heat pumps for the milder temperatures of fall and spring, with gas heat for the colder depths of winter. Many homeowners would still need assistance in buying the heat pumps, but state subsidies would stretch further, and gas utilities will also help their customers out. 

But this requires the continued use of gas, which climate activists oppose. Fortunately, there may be a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while keeping gas heat and taking advantage of the existing gas pipeline infrastructure. This approach would replace fossil natural gas with renewable natural gas blended with hydrogen. National Grid, for example, has proposed such a plan. 

Renewable natural gas (RNG) captures methane from rotting vegetable matter, landfills, and animal and human waste. Traditionally it just wafted into the atmosphere, where it has more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Turned into RNG it replaces fossil-sourced natural gas. 

Green hydrogen can be produced by using greenhouse gas-free renewables to turn water into hydrogen. When burned it produces no greenhouse gases. 

The hydrogen and RNG can be blended and piped through the existing natural gas infrastructure to provide gas for heating and appliances, with no disruption to customers. 

While nobody yet knows for sure about the economic and technological feasibility of this at utility scale, it’s the way the market is leaning, based on utilities’ promotion of it.  

We’re likely to be using a hydrogen-RNG blend for electricity production anyway. Even the Climate Action Council has recognized that we can’t get to 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2040. So why not use this gas for heating and appliances as well as electricity? 

Perhaps most importantly, allowing the continuation of clean gas for heating and appliances is a plan that empowers individual customers to choose their own heating solutions. 

We’ve built a great country on the idea of free markets and letting people run their own lives free from excessive government interference. And the market has demonstrated that people are increasingly interested in considering the environmental effects of their own choices.

You may also like

Voters Reject a Pair of Tax Cap-Breaching School Budgets

New York school districts whose budgets were defeated yesterday can hold a re-vote in June on the same proposal or a modified one Read More

NY’s pandemic-punctuated school spending topped US average by 89%

In a school year whose last quarter was severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, New York once again led all states in spending on elementary and secondary education Read More

Renewable Energy, Open Space, and Agriculture – New York Can’t Have it All

New York faces the prospect of growing land use conflicts in coming years, due to the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act Read More

Can New York City Do Without the Greenpoint Energy Project?

National Grid is trying to expand its natural gas compression facility in Brooklyn, but New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation delayed making a decision to approve it Read More

Stock markets gyrations could make Albany dizzy

Recent stock market trends could punch a hole in New York's overstuffed state budget. Read More

Set Free New York’s Zombie Charters 

Due to a quirk in state law, roughly 10,000 mostly low income and minority kids in New York City are being denied the charter school seats their parents covet for them. Read More

Minimum wage for home care aides is likely to mean bigger raises for downstate than upstate

The newly enacted wage hike for home care aides is likely to increase workers' pay more than three times as much in the New York City area as in other parts of the state, according to a review of labor data. Read More

Natural Gas Hookup Ban Will Harm Lower Income Homeowners

Climate activists want to drive up home prices and heating costs for moderate- and lower-income New Yorkers. Where’s the justice in that? Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@EmpireCenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!