Let’s be unequivocal: A push for electrification (which will mean a ban on gas) is the goal

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It was a great sound bite, let’s be clear: “That ain’t going to happen on my watch – let me be unequivocal,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday morning when asked about the ide of the state removing gas stoves from houses.

“We have no interest or appetite to come into your kitchen for any reason.”

Murphy, when pressed about the so-called ‘bans’ on gas stoves, said it’s not going to happen.

He added that BPU President Joe Fiordaliso “is going to make some clarifying comments” later Wednesday.

Not exactly.

After the BPU passed what it is calling a second three-year cycle of the state’s energy efficiency programs (to start July 1, 2024), Fiordaliso offered a somewhat vague response.

He didn’t offer any clarity toward the idea of a gas stove ban/electrification mandate. He said the plan was great for the future because it would reduce the state’s carbon footprint – but he did not say how the state was going to get there, saying only that it would include a “building decarbonization plan.”

Fiordalio offered said this about the plan: “(It) will ultimately reduce energy use and lower emissions emanating from a major source of greenhouse gases and advance the governor’s goal of electrifying hundreds of thousands of New Jersey homes and businesses by 2030.”

So, you can give the governor the benefit of the doubt – and say the state isn’t going to start going into people’s kitchens and pulling out their gas stoves.

But that doesn’t mean the state doesn’t want to get rid of gas stoves – and as quickly as possible.

Opponents of the plan see it that way. And they are as upset as promised.

Ray Cantor, the deputy chief government affairs officer for the NJBIA, said the program not only will end up costing more – he doesn’t think it will help the state reach its goals either.

“The state’s efforts to lower carbon emissions are laudable,” he said. “However, on a fundamental level, a 100% building electrification policy is not the best approach for several important reasons.

“First, there has been no comprehensive planning or investment in either the transmission or generation systems adequate to support a massive building electrification policy.

“Secondly, there are other, and perhaps less costly and more efficient options, to decarbonize our building sector. And, finally, electrification is not carbon- free, and in the short term may even result in more carbon emissions.”

Republican officials were even stronger in their words.

“The BPU’s action today demonstrates that they’re willing to start implementing electrification plans no matter how unpopular they are, regardless of the cost, and without legislative oversight,” Minority Leader Anthony Bucco said.

State Sen. Holly Schepisi (R-Westwood) said the plan will end up costing more money – trillions she estimated.

“Despite significant pushback, the BPU is forging ahead with the Murphy administration’s radical plan to phase out the natural gas used in millions of New Jersey homes and businesses,” she said. “The BPU’s approval today is the first step of Gov. Murphy’s electrification effort that will result in gas stoves and appliances being banned, mirroring the recent mandate banning future sales of gas cars.

“New Jerseyans cannot afford the $1.4 trillion price tag of an extreme energy plan that will leave them with fewer options and significantly higher electric bills.”

To be fair, Murphy had supporters, too. A host of environmental leaders spoke up in favor of the action.

“Highly efficient, all-electric homes are more comfortable, more affordable and resilient against the worst impacts of climate change, Doug O’Malley, director of Environment NJ, said. “The BPU’s three-year building electrification proposal is a necessary step toward reducing emissions from our buildings, the second-highest polluting sector in the state, while delivering clean air and healthier homes.

“We’re glad to see this proposal move forward and look forward to seeing the BPU builds on its success.”

Allison McLeod, senior policy director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, agreed.

“The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ proposal will not only bring us closer to our climate goals, but deliver affordable, reliable clean energy for those who need it most. We are especially pleased to see incentives to make it affordable for low- and moderate-income families to choose to transition to cleaner, healthier sources of energy,” she said. “This is a common-sense approach to energy efficiency and a good first step to keep the lights on at affordable rates, all while moving us forward toward a clean energy future.”

Cantor is not so sure.

He notes the cost of electrification is just one issue – whether the BPU actually is allowed to do this (and many felt it can’t) is another.

Then there’s reliability. Can the current grid handle such massive electrification? Many feel it can’t. Without a massive investment, this could set the state up for a Texas-sized disaster.

“It is irresponsible for the state to move ahead with new sources of demand and hope that the grid and generation capacities will be there,” Cantor said. “An energy failure means that our lives stop, people’s health and wellbeing are at risk, and businesses cease operation. We are already seeing the potential for brownouts and blackouts from existing demands, as we saw from the PJM warning this past winter.”

Cantor asks: What’s the rush?

“We maintain there are other alternatives to building electrification that the BPU should consider,” he said. “We already have an extensive network of gas infrastructure that can be utilized by converting to less carbon intensive fuels such as renewable natural gas and hydrogen. While these technologies still need further development, they will be commercially feasible in a short period of time.

“There is no need to rush to electrification. While boilers and other equipment may have useful lives for 10-20 years or so, the amount of carbon reduction during an early electrification mandate is inconsequential compared to the overall goals. It is better to get it right, than get it first.”