Electrification has gained momentum among energy stakeholders and lawmakers with local government leading the charge on a natural gas ban. Others have begun to take preemptive steps to assure that local entities are prohibited from passing such policies or ordinances. What many fail to realize is that this problem is more complicated than it appears at first glance. Not only does it threaten the ownership of several familiar luxuries, but these restrictions will disproportionately affect customers and the surrounding community. Electricity can’t be a feasible substitute for natural gas without significant investment in power infrastructure.
The Fight Against Natural Gas Utilities
As climate change continues to influence policymakers across the US, states are finding themselves divided on the issue of allowing new natural gas infrastructure. By the end of June, 17 states recently passed legislation preventing local governments from passing policies or ordinances that restrict utilities from using natural gas as their fuel source. This comes as a response to the growing efforts seen in some cities, like Berkeley, to ban natural gas connections to new homes and businesses. While natural gas is typically considered a cleaner-burning hydrocarbon it still produces a significant amount of carbon dioxide emissions when burned. As the call to action grows stronger, local governing bodies are attempting to rear back on what they see as a natural gas dependence. According to the EPA, 13% of annual carbon emissions in 2019 came from energy generated by hydrocarbon use in homes and businesses.
Still, utility companies are doing their best to make their product appear to be more green. After the passage of Colorado’s Senate Bill 21-264, utility companies are required to file a clean heat plan defined as a “comprehensive plan submitted by a gas distribution utility … that demonstrates projected reductions in methane and carbon dioxide emissions that, together, meet the reductions required … at the lowest reasonable cost.”
Alternatives Fail to Please
Natural gas has been used as an energy source for heating and cooking since it was discovered in 1821. It’s cost-effective, abundant, easy to store and use, and creates very little waste when used efficiently. This allowed it to become a staple for many different types of cooking. It is also why many chefs and business owners are asking that stoves be exempt from natural gas legislation, or that they have the option to apply for a waiver on a case-by-case basis. This is an argument gas advocacy groups have latched onto as utility companies and lobbying groups like the American Gas Association have allegedly paid influencers to express their love for gas-fired cooking.
Outside of stoves, heating has become a focal point for legislation. Homes are still heated with natural gas because people associate it with reliability, but the push for hydrocarbon-free electrification wants to change that. Rather than a natural gas furnace, new buildings may be seeing a system of electric, tankless heat pumps. Many warn that electrification at this magnitude will overload electric grids and require more power generation which will, ironically enough, likely come from hydrocarbons.
Policy-makers continue to deliberate over electrification from the perspective of banning natural gas, storm preparation, rate-making, and EVs. While the outcome may remain unpredictable, policies implemented today will certainly change electrification and how Americans live their lives.
Information Sourced from: Hlinka, M. (2021, July 26). Over 150 energy-related measures enacted during Q2'21. Retrieved from S&P Global Market Intelligence. https://www.wsj.com/articles/cities-try-to-phase-out-gas-stovesbut-cooks-are-pushing-back-11626514200