BUFFALO, N.Y. — The controversy over the state's Climate Action Plan has generated some consumer concerns and questions. The eventual conversion to all-electric equipment for homes raises the issues of affordability and practicality. On Monday, 2 On Your
Side took some of those questions directly to Governor Kathy Hochul.
Hochul began by explaining the law passed in 2019 by lawmakers during the Cuomo Administration requires the reduction of fossil fuel emissions and certain goals and dates to achieve them as an "ambitious" plan.
Some of the suggested ways to get there are laid out in the 445-page Scoping Plan produced by the Climate Action Council which was supposed to map out ways for the state to hit those goals.
Specifically, the Climate Action Scoping plan on page 190 states that by 2030 the state should "get to zero-emission standards that prohibit replacements (at end of useful life) of residential-sized equipment used for the combustion of fossil fuels for heating and cooling and hot water. The standards beginning in 2030 should regulate equipment sized to typically serve single-family homes.
So that means if an existing natural furnace hot water heater, or other fossil fuel appliances break down and require replacement, then electric-powered devices like air source heat pumps or even more costly geothermal heat pumps must be installed. Some HVAC experts have also questioned the ability of some heat pumps (even configured for cold weather) to effectively heat a home in much colder climates like Western New York. Cold snaps under 50 degrees in some areas like Arizona have caused them to simply freeze up.
On Page 205 it does put the cost for such conversion of a home heating system with suggested insulation and air sealing at $21,000 dollars. It also - also notes that rebates and tax credits can be used towards that costs but without details like how much would be covered.
When asked about the plan, the Governor chose to start out discussing gas stoves because of prior reports that an official with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission had raised, some say overblown, concerns about natural gas emissions from stoves.
Hochul said "No one has to remove their gas stove. We're talking about new buildings.
Reporter: If your gas stove wears out - Governor or if your furnace wears out?
Hochul: You're talking a long time down the road and in the meantime we will have rebates - cause it's ultimately going to be cheaper for the consumer. No one is talking about that. Yes, the conversion costs are high - that's why we're going to have rebates and assistance for people to convert to different.
Reporter: Who pays for that Governor?
Hochul: The state will be paying for this but also...
Reporter: And that's taxpayers isn't it?
Hochul: But I'm doing this for the consumers."
But also on page 205 of the Scoping report - it notes that quote "for customers now heating with low-cost gas the bill savings do not currently offer a clear economic return on investment for use of a home heat pump."
The Governor when pressed further said "Investing in transitioning from fossil-based fuels to cleaner based energy fuels that are cheaper in the long run when our consumers pay their bills is what I'm striving for - good for the environment but cheaper for them ultimately. Yes, there are conversion costs but later. No one has to convert a house that's already gas to electric - we're talking about new houses.
Reporter: What about 2030 Governor?
Hochul: We're talking about new builds, new houses and I think that's what's getting lost.
Reporter: But what about retrofitting for an existing furnace that breaks down, an existing hot water heater, and a gas dryer?
Hochul: They don't have to convert an entire house to replace something.
Ron: What if things wear out? Don't they? To Be honest?
Hochul: We're talking about new housing"
The Governor kept stressing these requirements apply to new builds - new housing construction. But the scoping report mentions existing fossil fuel appliances for current homes which could wear out and again need to be replaced in 2030 with electric appliances for zero emissions.
We're seeking more information about how much rebates or tax credits would cover and the steps to apply for them.
The Governor also said again this shift to using all electric appliances is in the law passed back in 2019. However, some Republican lawmakers challenge that saying there must be separate votes for such requirements.
There are many other issues in that scoping report we want to ask state officials about - from the status of the electric grid and the need for upgrades to handle that increased power load and yes - who pays for that - along with what the governor called the ambitious shift by 2030 which is seven years from now to renewable energy sources like hydro and especially wind and solar for 70 percent of the state's electric needs. Some experts question that because it's currently less than 30%.
Full presser below: