Advocates working to get fossil fuels out of buildings celebrated the bold commitment made January 5th by New York State Governor Hochul to electrify 2 million homes by 2030 and called on her administration to follow through on funding to make it affordable for any building to switch off fossil fuels. The commitment to remove fossil fuel appliances from millions of buildings and replace them with efficient electric appliances is a critical piece of climate action that renewable heating advocates had been pushing the Governor toward for months.
Pollution from heating, cooking, and hot water systems in New York buildings accounts for one-third of greenhouse emissions in the state and harms indoor and outdoor air quality, causing approximately 1,000 premature deaths each year. (www.bit.ly/NY-renewable-heat-1) The State’s Climate Action Council, which is tasked with creating a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 and 85% by 2050, released a draft last week that included the need to electrify approximately 1.8 million homes to meet the 2030 mandate. (www.on.ny.gov/3ALbDSo) Building electrification refers to the process of replacing appliances that burn fossil fuels with efficient electric versions that reduce energy use and will be powered by renewable electricity as the grid becomes greener.
“Too much time has already been lost in the fight against climate change,” said Governor Hochul recently in her State of the State address. “Our reliance on fossil fuels must be phased out.” She went on to say “New construction in the State will be zero-emission by 2027, and we will build climate-friendly, electric homes and promote electric cars, trucks, and buses.”
The Governor’s State of the State Book released along with her address provides more detail, committing that the “the State will implement measures to support the creation of 2 million electrified or electrification-ready homes by 2030” with 800,000 being low-to-moderate income households. (www.on.ny.gov/3uf28d6) The Governor also committed to “requiring zero on-site greenhouse gas emissions for new construction no later than 2027,” improving building and appliance standards, and “proposing legislation to level the playing field for clean energy alternatives and end the obligation to serve customers with natural gas that currently exists in state law, tailored to maintain affordability for New York’s most vulnerable customers.”
In October 2021, over 220 organizations signed onto a letter asking the Governor to commit to 2 million all-electric homes by 2030, with half of them being affordable housing in disadvantaged communities. (www.beepny.org/letter) The letter also called for codes that would eliminate fossil fuels in new construction by 2024 and utility regulations that end fossil fuel subsidies provided for new gas hookups. A follow-up letter by over 100 local elected officials reinforced those requests. (www.bit.ly/NY-renewable-heat-3)
The Renewable Heat Now Campaign praised the Governor for naming building electrification as a key priority and for committing to many of the requests from the letter. The group called on her administration to ensure robust and equitable funding for the transition in her forthcoming Executive Budget, move up the dates for fossil-free new construction, reject false heating solutions like so-called “green hydrogen,” and to ensure that homes are not just “electrification-ready” but that 2 million homes become fossil-fuel-free by 2030, in line with the Climate Action Council’s draft plan.
Renewable Heat Now urges the Governor to commit $1 billion annually for equitable electrification efforts in her upcoming Executive Budget. Half of this funding should come from the New York Green Bank, using at least 50% of its State-authorized capital, or $500 million to support the greening of affordable housing. The State of the State Book mentions several funding proposals for electrification with little detail.
In addition to focusing on the funds needed in the upcoming State Budget, the Renewable Heat Now campaign is calling on the Governor and legislators to support a package of legislation needed to phase fossil fuels out of buildings. (www/bit.ly/RHN-legislative) This Renewable Heat Now bill package, which includes several of the policies mentioned by the Governor in the State of the State Book, essentially takes the recommendations coming from the Climate Action Council and provides a legal framework to allow implementation of building electrification to happen at the pace and scale that the climate crisis demands. The All-Electric Building Act (S6843/A8431) requires that no new buildings will heat or run appliances using fossil fuels starting in 2024. This legislation also directs state agencies to identify policies to address affordability. Other components of the bill package address building codes, appliance standards, tax credits, rebates, and changes to public utility law that together serve to shift the status quo from fossil fuel to efficient, affordable electrification.