Democrats and environmental advocates are gearing up to push two building-electrification bills in the upcoming session of the state Legislature, the Albany Times Union reports.
One bill would eliminate fossil fuels in favor of electrification of all new buildings constructed across the state, likely beginning in 2024. (New York City passed such a bill in 2021.) Advocates of the statewide bill say it would eliminate the need for a power supply reliant on what they contend are expensive and unstable fossil fuels. Buildings account for about one-third of carbon emissions in the state, and about two-thirds in New York City. Electrification is based on the premise that the state's electric grid will become cleaner in coming years as it abandons fossil fuels in favor of power from renewable sources such as hydropower, geothermal, wind and solar.
A separate but closely aligned bill would require gas utilities to plan for the eventual tapering off of natural gas usage — and repeal the "100-foot rule," which utility companies use to heavily subsidize new hookups to the gas grid for new residential customers within 100 feet of an existing gas line.
The state has set a goal to have a zero-emissions electric grid by 2040.
Lobbying both pro and con is sure to be intense. Last year, the first time the electrification and gas transition bills were introduced, lobbyists for both energy providers and environmental organizations flooded the Capitol. The same legislation failed last year, which proponents chalked up to concerted spending from groups like the American Petroleum Institute.
Michelle Hook, executive director of a coalition called New Yorkers for Affordable Energy that has opposed the proposals, said that the energy industry does not deny the reality of climate change. But, she added, there is concern about the reliability of a future power grid built on purely renewable sources, as well as affordability for the average New Yorker.
"There seems to be an undertone of a desire to just completely flip a switch and eradicate natural gas immediately," Hook said. "When it makes up 60-70% of our energy source, it’s just not possible."
Rich Schrader, an environmental strategist for the National Resources Defense Council, disputed the notion of an overnight solution. "It's not going to happen tomorrow, and no one's suggesting it will," Schrader said. But to move the needle in combating the often dire effects of climate change, he added, the policies need legislative teeth.
Let the lobbying begin.
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