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Wu looks at banning fossil-fuel use in new development, major renovation projects

Mayor Wu said today she wants Boston to join a state pilot that would let the city ban the use of natural gas and other fossil fuels for heating and cooking in new construction or major renovation projects.

Wu today called for creation of an advisory committee that would draft a new city ordinance that would require all-electric buildings - using such advanced energy-saving technology as heat pumps - that would then be sent to the City Council and the state Legislature for their required approval:

To develop local, fossil fuel-free standards that promote economic opportunity for workers and residents, Boston will convene an Advisory Committee made up of stakeholders with expertise in environmental justice, affordable housing, labor and workers’ rights, building engineering and energy, healthcare and public health, real estate development and management, architecture and urban design, and distributed energy systems. The Advisory Committee will anchor a months-long community process to establish definitions, criteria for applicability, and the timeline to prioritize the complementary goals of decarbonization, housing affordability, equity and a just transition for workers. After consulting with the Advisory Committee, Mayor Wu will then file a local fossil fuel-free building ordinance with the Boston City Council.

Wu said up to 30% of the greenhouse emissions in the city now come from oil and gas-fired heating and cooking systems, and that reducing those is critical for ensuring Boston does its part to deal with the climate crisis.

Wu praised state legislation, recently signed by Gov. Baker, to allow for such measures. "Boston’s participation will help deliver healthy, energy efficient spaces that save our residents and businesses on utilities costs and create local green jobs that will fuel our economy for decades," she said.

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Comments

This is already in the works and from what I understand isn't possible for life science buildings to be. 100 % electric.

https://www.boston.gov/departments/environment/building-emissions-reduct...

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Voting closed 11

And just where are we getting this extra electricity from? Boston doesn't have a wind farm or a nuke plant and God only knows the last time a coal fired, oil fired, or natural gas fired electric generating plant was built in the area.

What happened to the MBTA power plants that used to dot Washington Street when the Orange Line was known as the El for elevated? We should start those up again and send the power to the neighborhoods.

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Voting closed 18

There's a push across the state to get people off gas and oil heat and onto electric. I ferget but the state had some commitment, like 300,000 homes a year and its doing

Why? ITS A HARD SELL HERE.

Especially in the last few months, I've watched my Eversource electric rates go up about a dime per kwh. Either the actual per kwh charge or something under the 'delivery charges' went up. And DONT even get me started about that.... it cost you more to "deliver" the electricity to me than what it costs?

New England, specifically Massachusetts has some of the highest electrical rates in the country.. and you want me to switch to electric heat?!? I'd rather go back to heating with a wood stove.

A friend in Indianapolis and I exchanged electric bills one month (we were curious). He does have muni power (Indianapolis Power & Light), and that can make all the difference.

He was floored how much I paid. I was floored how simplied his bill was. It literally was "this is what you used, a 5 buck service charge, discount for paperless billing".

I took his rate and plugged my kwh usage in... it was a little more than half of what I was paying. I think ~60 bucks after the service charge... for a 120 buck eversource bill. I can't imagine what the difference is now.. probably far more.

But yeah, you want me to switch to electric heat so I can have 200-300/mo or more electric bills in the winter? (vs my ~130 gas bill on my very inefficient boiler?).

I'd be very hard pressed to do it (and am only considering it because of rebates & what system I want also does air conditioning).

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Voting closed 35

Some time the last two years the city of Boston had all the residential Eversource customers switch over to "renewable". Fixed supply rate around 11 cents a KWh. No notice of increase. I don't think there is anything close to supplying the whole state with renewable at current demand rates, let alone with the increase demand for heat and electric cars.

As for MA having the highest rate in the country, NH would like to have a word with you. Much of the state saw a doubling of the supply rate (on average) starting August 1st.

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Voting closed 8

If you don't force people to move to electric, then capitalism says the energy companies will keep looking for cheaper ways to provide gas/oil to homes like more pipelines. If more homes are drawing solely from the grid, then capitalism says the money to be made is in providing greater electrical capacity to homes and improving the grid. Why would energy companies invest harder in electricity and renewables if only a fraction of the homes use it for everything and that fraction is unchanging? A solar panel can't power a gas water heater or an oil furnace.

So, they're not going to make better, cheaper electricity unless the percentages change in demand which won't change if the electricity isn't cheaper...unless we do something via policy.

And at some point, if we're going to stop using petroleum products to save ourselves, then every home is going to have to be on electricity. We are still selling each other homes from 100 years ago with no major modifications to them. A house built today might live to see 2150 or beyond. If you let it start out with a gas furnace, then at some point you're either going to have to make it convert later (harder, more expensive than building it electric to start) or you're going to have to make it learn to swim (houses are stubborn about learning the backstroke).

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Voting closed 9

I don't think chefs are able to cook all dishes on an electric stove.
Flame seems to be a feature in the best kitchens.

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Voting closed 12

Here's some commentary on that:
https://fesmag.com/topics/trends/20444-balancing-gas-and-electric-in-kit...

Turns out there is some real space and heat efficiencies that can come from electrifying a kitchen that makes the work environment a lot nicer and easier to clean. Some even mean being able to put kitchens in spaces that wouldn't have previously been able to support one.
Additionally, there's many foods where what you need is heat, not flame, like broilers, boilers (soup/stock), baking.

I have a guess that the few instances where you absolutely can't cook it the same without a flame will either change over time or might have the only use of natural gas in the kitchen in the future. If the only kitchens that have to have an open flame have one and only one designated station, we'd still be a LOT better off than the current situation where nearly everything is cooked using gas regardless of method/need.

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Voting closed 9

It sounds good, but falls apart when you dig in.

50% of the electricity generation in MA is from coal, petroleum, and NG. This needs to change before they start pushing for more electricity consumption.

Are heat pumps even that efficient? I’ve always understood that they’re not compared to NG high efficiency boilers, but maybe they’ve made a lot of progress in the last 5 years? Can the grid even support this change? More and more EVs are hitting the streets every year.

Another poster pointed out above that electricity is very expensive in MA. Sure, save a couple hundred in incentives just to make thousands more in electricity bills.

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Voting closed 17

The advantage of electrification comes from the flexibility to use more energy from non-carbon sources in the future. Since buildings are long term investments, that makes a lot of sense. Being able to centralize emissions reduction at the plant is also a benefit of electrical power distribution.

It is an open question how the electrical grid (or any particular piece of it) will perform if the program is a success. Same is true with rooftop solar: there are locations in Germany where rooftop solar is installed but can't be switched on until the local grid is upgraded. And that's something the US isn't traditionally good at.

My biggest concern with residential electrical mandates is that contractors and builders are motivated to reduce up front costs by installing "just efficient enough" heating systems. That may be electrical baseboard heating or conventional heat pumps, both of which tend to be more expensive than gas in New England (though prices are always fluctuating). That's a tax on an essential that everyone needs. Ground source heat pumps are cheaper to operate over the building life but more expensive and more complex to install.

The cost and effort for a homeowner to convert to a more efficient type of heating system is prohibitive, especially when replacing an almost new system.

Contractors need incentives to install the equipment that will minimize costs and electricity usage over time.

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Voting closed 10

The emissions controlled by a power plant are better than a million homes burning their own gas/oil and sending fumes out a million roofs.

That alone is a prime reason to switch to electricity.

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Voting closed 12

But are we going to pretend gas is cheap here??? We used the massave program to insulate our house and had all new storm windows installed last year. The amount of gas we used to heat our house decreased by 40%. Our bill decreased by maybe 10% because the rates rose so much.

We're switching to heat pumps because they are more efficient, quiet, etc.

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Voting closed 7