New York’s plan to steer homeowners and landlords toward electric heat could backfire due to high costs and practical concerns, according to a new study from the Empire Center for Public Policy.  

In Cold Reality: The Cost and Challenge of Compulsory Home Electrification in New York, Empire Center fellow James Hanley looks at the state’s plan to prohibit homeowners from replacing gas and oil furnaces after 2029 and for them to instead install heat pumps. Homeowners, he explains, face both higher equipment costs and potentially high weatherization costs to accommodate heat pumps, which can operate at lower monthly costs but require better insulation. 

Even with extensive state and federal subsidies, Hanley warns, the upfront price-tag of heat pumps and weatherization will likely push homeowners to instead buy low-cost but energy-hungry electric furnaces that will put considerably greater stress on the electric grid—making the state’s overall electrification goals harder to reach. 

“This is the fundamental problem at the heart of New York’s command-and-control attempt to restructure its economy to make what amount to barely detectable reductions in global emissions,” said Hanley. “Albany can ban things, but it can’t control how people replace them.”

Hanley notes that the impact of this policy will be felt most in rural New York, where the median household income of owner-occupied homes is the lowest, and points out that the state could instead reduce emissions by setting clean fuel standards that encourage the use of biofuels.

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