New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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For Co-op and Condo Boards, Electrification Looks Better and Better

New York City

Wind energy, green electric grid, co-op and condo boards, building carbon emissions, electrification, Local Law 97.
Nov. 28, 2023

A growing number of co-op and condo boards are buying into the gospel of electrification — switching from fossil fuel-powered buildings systems to electric-powered ones as the electric grid gets greener and cleaner. This, they believe, is the best way to cut their buildings' carbon emissions enough to comply with Local Law 97, which goes into effect in 2024.

Electrification will succeed only if two things happen: the cost of electricity remains affordable, and the electric grid actually gets greener. New developments suggest that both things are happening.

First, the fossil fuel industry and right-wing advocacy groups claim that households using electricity for heat will pay far more than those using natural gas. But the claim is highly misleading because it fails to address the efficiency of new technologies and the widespread uses of electricity in U.S. homes, according to the pro-electrification group Rewiring America, The Guardian reports.

Each year, the federal Energy Information Agency publishes a winter fuels outlook, forecasting how much households using different fuels will pay for heat from November through March. This year, it says heating-oil customers will face the steepest costs, at $1,856, followed by electricity users, at $1,063; and gas users at just $605. But that number doesn’t distinguish between older electric-resistance appliances, such as inefficient electric baseboard heaters and electric space heaters, and the new generation of highly efficient electric heat pumps.

“Both run on electricity, but they’re fundamentally different machines,” saya Wael Kanj, a research associate at Rewiring America.

Electric heat pumps, which can both heat and cool homes, push warm air out of the home in the summer and draw it inside during the winter. Because they transfer heat rather than generate it, heat pumps warm homes very efficiently, using half as much energy as electric resistance heaters, according to the Department of Energy, and two to three times less energy than oil- and gas-powered heaters.

But electric heat pumps won't reduce carbon emissions unless they run on electricity generated by renewable energy sources. And that's happening. South Fork Wind, a wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean whose completion is pivotal to Northeastern states’ hopes of switching to renewable sources of energy, is moving forward, The New York Times reports. Out in the ocean, more than 30 miles east of Montauk Point, the mission is to erect a dozen towers and attach 318-foot-long fiberglass blades to each of them. Last week, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the installation of the first South Fork turbine marked “a momentous step” toward the state’s goal of getting 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.  

Despite this encouraging news, fossil fuels are not about to disappear. If current projections hold, the United States will drill for more oil and gas in 2030 than at any point in its history, according to another report by The New York Times. So will Russia and Saudi Arabia. In fact, almost all of the top 20 fossil fuel-producing countries plan to produce more oil, gas and coal in 2030 than they do today. If those projections hold, the world would overshoot the amount of fossil fuels consistent with limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius — the level scientists say would result in vastly more life-threatening heat waves, drought and coastal flooding.

“Governments are literally doubling down on fossil fuel production; that spells double trouble for people and planet,” António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, said in a statement. “We cannot address climate catastrophe without tackling its root cause: fossil fuel dependence.”

And the best way to break a dependence on fossil fuels is to switch to efficient machines powered by electricity that's green.

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