Op-Ed | There is a better way

Abstract icon representing the ecological call to recycle and reuse in the form of a pond with a recycling symbol in the middle of a beautiful untouched jungle. 3d rendering.
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New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, the “CLCPA” is among the most ambitious climate laws in the world. It requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050. The CLCPA created a Climate Action Council, the “CAC,” which is charged with developing a plan to meet these targets. In December, the CAC released its draft scoping plan for public feedback. If you haven’t heard about the CAC, you aren’t alone. It is the most important governmental body that virtually no one has heard anything about.

The draft scoping plan favors the use of electricity for heating and cooking in homes and businesses, and proposes moving away from the use of natural gas for heating, cooking and all appliances, beginning as early as 2024. Solving climate change requires sweeping emissions reductions across all sectors — how we generate electricity, fuel our vehicles, and heat our homes — while at the same time maintaining safe, reliable, and affordable energy for all. Electrification will play a crucial role in meeting our climate goals to be sure, but the enormous challenge in front of us demands a range of practical and cost-effective solutions. Today, nearly 90 percent of the electricity in the City of New York is created by using natural gas. On the coldest winter day, the gas network delivers three times the amount of energy than the electric network delivers on the hottest summer day. Replacing the amount of energy produced by the gas network is not as simple as building a few windmills and solar farms – although National Grid has invested millions in renewables like wind, solar, and battery storage, in addition to electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Last week, National Grid launched our vision to fully eliminate fossil fuels from our US gas and electric systems – in sum, THERE IS A BETTER WAY to achieve the requirements of the CLCPA on time, in an affordable and reliable way that preserves choice for our customers – and does not place the City’s future in the hands of a single solution for heating and cooking.

We foresee that over time natural gas could be replaced with low or zero carbon fuels – and leveraging our existing networks – the assets we have already built over decades – simply makes sense for New Yorkers. In the same way we are decarbonizing the electric network through adoption of renewables, we will decarbonize the gas system with cleaner fuels, like renewable natural gas and hydrogen. Our vision for a fossil-free future is rooted in supporting our customers and communities and ensuring a clean energy transition where no one is left behind.

Fighting climate change requires an urgent and aggressive response that uses all available tools. Our approach uses a diverse set of solutions to meet our shared goals while giving customers options and avoiding the burdensome costs that a full electrification approach to clean energy would impose on customers and communities.

Rather than remove gas lines and force customers to buy new appliances and new heating equipment before the end of its useful life, we can use fossil-free fuels like renewable natural gas and hydrogen instead – technology that exists today and can be scaled to meet the enormous capacity required to fuel the millions of customers who rely on natural gas today.

Achieving meaningful decarbonization will require every tool in the toolbox – it is imprudent and risky to commit to a single approach that excludes other viable, sustainable, and economic options. A coordinated gas and electric strategy present a better way to tackle the daunting affordability and customer adoption challenges of the clean energy transition.

There are those who will call this a false solution. The only false solution is believing you can affordably, safely and reliably electrify everything. In our plan, we’re going to electrify a lot across the State, but it can’t be the only option for our customers.

In sum – There Is A Better Way – to learn more about National Grid’s plan visit nationalgrid.com/fossilfree.

Bryan Grimaldi is the Vice President of Corporate Affairs for National Grid in New York.