"Is Banning Natural Gas For Residential Heating Smart?"
- Jun 3, 2021 9:02 pm GMT
There is a U.S. movement to ban natural gas for residential heat to reduce CO2 emissions, but are there downsides that we should consider? What is the cost of residential heating electrification to utility ratepayers, and is this efficient?
U.S. Energy Demand
In the 39 years from 1980 to 2019, U.S. natural gas residential demand grew 9.5% in total, from 4.73 quadrillion BTUs to 5.18 quadrillion BTUs. Electricity demand doubled during that period from 2.45 quadrillion BTUs to 4.90 quadrillion BTUs.
Graph 1 depicts the historical residential sector energy consumption in the U.S.
Graph 1 – U.S. Residential Sector Energy Consumption By Energy Source, 1950-2019
Electrifying existing U.S. residences to bring the same energy now served by natural gas would require a doubling of electricity generation for the residential market. Will this increased production come from natural gas, solar, wind, or other sources?
For winter heating demand now supplied by natural gas, solar energy production is much lower in those winter heating months due to the shorter days in North America, thus requiring supplemental supply sources to meet electric heating demand.
Once the energy is produced, our residential transmission/distribution system will need to be doubled to accommodate more energy going to urban areas which comprise a larger share of residential electricity use. Supplying those dense urban areas where existing distribution systems are now stressed at peak demand will be significantly more difficult due to constraints on right-of-way and NIMBY public perception. Dealing with existing distribution line congestion will make doubling the residential electricity demand harder and more expensive to ratepayers to satisfy.
In addition to transmission/distribution line construction, the line losses in the system from generator to end-user will also reduce the efficiency of satisfying consumer heating demand with electricity.
In the Energy In Depth website article, “New York City’s Cost To Electrify Would Be More Than $25,000 Per Family”, the costs are quantified for this change in policy. Source: https://www.energyindepth.org/report-new-york-citys-cost-to-electrify-would-be-more-than-25000/ In Menyae Christopher’s March 24, 2021 article, the “Consumer Energy Alliance’s latest report calculated a $25,600 price tag per New York City household if the city continues to follow short-sighted goals of banning natural gas use in buildings. The cost to residents will be felt each winter and poses significant challenges to businesses recovering from the COVID pandemic in the short term.”
New York City recent laws have reduced the options for residential heating to electricity via Local Law 97 enacted in 2019. This will drive the movement from natural gas to electricity for large commercial and residential buildings by 2050, and will ban natural gas connections from new buildings starting in 2030. The report indicated that NYC policies will result in higher energy costs, replacing natural gas appliances, remodeling, and re-wiring for these utility customers.
Analyzing the energy market in New York State, it charges the ninth highest electricity prices in the United States, while more than 30% of the electricity is generated by natural gas power plants. Using the 2021 Federal Register of Average Unit Costs of Electricity, we find that electricity to serve heating load will cost four times as much as natural gas this year with a huge price difference felt in winter, where all-electric homes will pay 111 percent more for space heating than natural gas customers.
By removing the low-cost natural gas option for commercial and residential markets, NYC is stressing the electric grid’s ability to reliably deliver energy while shifting natural gas use upstream to generating units at the cost of rate-paying residents.
In the article, “Lost in Transmission” published on July 21, 2020 by Jake Rubin, there is a huge difference in conversion efficiency between using natural gas at the point of demand vs. for electricity generation and electrifying the demand at the consumer level. For natural gas electricity generation, only 32% of the energy from electricity makes it to the customer, while using natural gas for heat is 92% efficient from production to customer, as shown below in Figure 1.
Figure 1 – Natural Gas Conversion Efficiency
Source: http://www.truebluenaturalgas.org › lost-in-transmission
A home that uses natural gas directly saves an average of $879 per year compared to homes using electricity for those applications.
Natural gas has given New York City the firm heating power capacity to keep the lights and furnaces on in the city, while keeping heating costs low for rate-payers.
Banning natural gas for residential customers will directly harm consumers who rely on affordable energy for home heating and cooking, and damage a robust service economy that serves millions every day.
Copyright © May 2021 Ronald L. Miller All Rights Reserved
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