The Impact of Natural Gas Bans, Electrification, and Decarbonization on Consumers

January 2022

Background: With a desire to transition to carbon-neutral sources of energy, many states and localities are imposing or considering policies that prohibit natural gas installation in both residential and commercial construction. Such bans would require contractors to construct new dwellings where the sources of power are exclusively electric, because carbon-free sources of energy such as wind and solar generate electric power. This means that in new construction, fixtures such as furnaces, ovens, and water heaters must be electric appliances. Some proposals go as far as prohibiting the installation of additional gas appliances in existing structures.

Why is it important? 70 million American homes use natural gas to stay warm in the winter, prepare food, and heat their water. Because it is three times more efficient than electricity, natural gas is an affordable energy source that keeps electric bills low, has low carbon emissions, and reduces overall use of electricity which in turn reduces dependence on the more carbon-dependent energy sources that provide electric power, resulting in net reductions in carbon emissions.

While the technology exists that proponents of natural gas bans hope will power a carbon-free energy grid by the middle of this century, such as solar and wind farms, existing capacity is not sufficient to power the grid exclusively on these technologies nor is the infrastructure in place. Electrification would increase the average residential household-energy related costs by almost 50%. Shifting to 100% electricity dependency, especially when the wind and solar infrastructure is not in place, will stress electric grids while increasing both energy costs for consumers and the carbon impact to the environment. In fact, in California (the epicenter of decarbonization and gas ban efforts) the stress placed on electric grids as wildfires raged across the state required energy provider PG&E to shut down sections of the grid (i.e. “rolling blackouts”) to mitigate further damage.

Employment in the construction sector would also be affected as jobs that depend on natural gas equipment manufacturing, installation, and service would be wiped out.

Furthermore, Households in colder climates will be particularly impacted, as gas heat is not susceptible to electrical power outages that are common when temperatures drop significantly and families need heat the most. Small businesses such as food service establishments would pay much more for electricity considering the energy-intensive equipment they use for food preparation. The cost of new homes would also increase because they would need to be wired at a double the amperage than would otherwise be required to accommodate all energy-intensive appliances and fixtures.

If a forced conversion to electric appliances were to be mandated in existing structures, low-income households would be hit the hardest as they would struggle to afford replacing furnaces, water heaters and other fixtures that people depend on for a healthy, comfortable quality of life; subsidies and grants for such upgrades would increase costs for taxpayers. While the objective of carbon-neutral energy production is laudable and well-intended, it is apparent to PHCC that decarbonization policies calling for natural gas bans have not considered their consequences.

What is PHCC’s solution? The plumbing and HVAC contractors of PHCC understand their responsibility as stewards of the environment. Gas utilities have added tens of millions of customers over the past half-century with virtually no increase in carbon emissions. We believe a healthier environment can be achieved by reducing carbon emissions generated by fossil fuels for electricity while allowing consumers to choose natural gas to offset electric costs and maintain a high quality of life.