Legislators in Albany have grabbed the baton from their colleagues in New York City in pursuing an idea with few prospects of success.
Last year, New York City mandated that permits for new structures would only be granted if the buildings were all electric. This prohibits newly constructed residential, commercial and industrial buildings from installing gas lines or from obtaining power not from electrical sources.
Well, of course, members of the state Legislature decided they needed to follow suit.
Sponsored by Brooklyn Democrats state Assemblywoman Emily E. Gallagher and state Sen. Brian P. Kavanagh, the All-Electric Building Act is under discussion.
“An energy transformation movement is underway in New York. Two years ago, we committed to a cleaner, greener future with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” the two lawmakers wrote in an essay published Jan. 19 in the Times Union in Albany. “Four months ago, Ithaca became the first U.S. city to mandate all existing buildings be electrified. A month ago, New York City became the largest city in the country to shift to electrification in new construction. And earlier this month, Gov. Kathy Hochul finally committed to ‘2 million climate-friendly homes’ and ‘zero on-site greenhouse gas emissions’ by 2027. New York state is ready to emerge as a leader in building decarbonization.
“In 2021, we introduced the All-Electric Building Act, which aims to cut carbon emissions by millions of tons across the state and require new buildings to have all-electric appliances for space and water heating and cooking by 2023. It also mandates that state agencies identify policies to make electricity affordable and ensure its access to low-income residents,” Gallagher and Kavanagh wrote. “Building electrification is a critical part of the path to transition away from fossil fuels and to meet the state’s aggressive climate goals. New York City’s new electrification law will save 2.1 million tons of carbon emissions by 2040, equivalent to the annual emissions of 450,000 cars. It also ends the construction of costly new gas lines to new buildings, which will save ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars on their utility bills. In addition to saving money and reducing climate pollution, this new legislation also will improve air quality, boosting public health. It’s no wonder New Yorkers are on board, with 62% supporting electrification policies. But we need more of this type of innovative solution for the rest of the state.”
We appreciate the move to curtail widespread usage of fossil fuels.
Doing so will reduce greenhouse gases and slow climate change.
Our society must embrace more initiatives that will achieve this.
However, cutting off access to fuel-based energy sources in new homes and companies will adversely affect people in Northern New York.
Perhaps contractors in New York City are excited to design structures around an idea that’s not been fully tested, and perhaps New York City residents have the financing available to go all electric.
But this isn’t the case here in the north country.
Natural gas, for example, saves money in the long run as a heating source as opposed to electricity.
All-electric buildings also will substantially raise the demand for power, and the state’s network of transmission lines is in a dreadful condition.
This idea also will increase the push to place more wind and solar project upstate so that downstate users can feel good about going green.
While we agree that New York must rely more on renewable sources of energy, its moving in the wrong direction on one solution.
Nuclear power must be a major factor in the state’s plan to combat climate change.
But things are faring worse on this front.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nuclear power accounted for 29% of New York’s utility-scale net generation in 2020.
This was down from the 34% the state achieved in 2019.
The Indian Point Energy Center in Westchester County closed nearly a year ago.
A state committed to green energy should not be closing facilities producing the most reliable source of renewable power.
And while buildings may be fully generated by electricity, much of the state’s power still comes from fossil fuels.
New York was the sixth-largest consumer of natural gas in 2019, according to the EIA.
When the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow, energy will need to come from someplace.
Another concern is how this legislation will be expanded if it passes into law.
Today, it’s only new buildings that need to go all electric.
But what about next year?
Will building permits for remodeling eventually be held up to coerce a conversion to all electricity?
The state has a climate change plan that is too ambitious with little evidence that its goals can be secured efficiently and reasonably priced.
This measure must be put on the back burner before it boils over.