- Jan 18, 2022 4:09 pm GMT
On December 15, 2021, the New York City Council voted to ban natural gas heating and cooking appliances in some new construction buildings under seven stories in 2023, while others determined to be unfeasible by permitting authorities as well as taller buildings will need to comply in 2027. Hospitals, commercial kitchens and laundromats will be exempt from the ban.
This makes New York the largest city in the country to pass such a ban, and the governor of New York state has already expressed interest in extending the ban state-wide.
While many have expressed the opinion that this might be the bellwether signifying the eventual end of gas-fueled appliances in homes (which are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions), others consider it premature to make such drastic decisions, and that the laws will merely shift the use of natural gas to power plants instead of residential buildings.
The ban is designed to minimize impacts on individuals, but new construction dwellings will most likely carry a slightly higher price tag for electric appliances, barring the absence of financial assistance or sharp decreases in costs.
According to a study by sustainability think tank RMI, about 2.1 million tons of carbon emissions would be saved by 2040 under the New York ban, equivalent to the annual emissions of 450,000 cars. The change could also yield several hundred million dollars in ratepayer savings by 2040, due to cost avoidance on new gas connections.
Some of the other impacts of phasing out on-site natural gas use include additional electricity production and transmission to operate these new electric appliances. At least in the short term, this will force utility power plants to generate more electricity, some of which will be from renewables/nuclear power (about 40% of current generation).
However, without significant infrastructure changes, natural gas (which also accounts for about 40% of electrical production) remains the most readily available energy source to add generation capacity. The positive takeaway in this situation is that gas-fired power plants using the latest technology in cogeneration and heat recovery steam generators (or HRSGs) are much more efficient at converting natural gas to an electrical product (75 to 80%) as home appliances are at generating heat (40%), and with much better emission controls.
New York joins at least a half-dozen major cities that have passed similar restrictions. In response, 20 states have advanced legislation to prevent the ban of natural gas since 2020, citing that it should be up to the consumer to make their own energy choices.
“This is not really a climate solution,” said Daniel Lapato, senior director of state affairs with the American Gas Association, an advocacy group for the natural gas industry. “When you start eliminating these options, you have to look at the cost implications to the homeowner.”
Part of Lapato’s contention is the capture of natural gas from sources like farms or landfills, which can be arguably less harmful than the process of extracting it from the ground through fracking and other methods.
In addition, advocates in food industry have pushed back on electric cooking equipment, saying their capabilities do not allow them to replicate their dishes made over an open flame. Some of the aforementioned laws prohibit the banning of kitchen appliances which use gas at the current time.
One thing remains clear, and that is the debate about the future of natural gas is only beginning.
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