Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-Mercer): Incentives needed

New Jersey is lagging behind neighboring states in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from homes and buildings – a trend that threatens the state’s goal of reducing global warming pollution, according to a report by a nonprofit advocacy group.

The analysis, conducted by the Acadia Center and commissioned by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, calls on the state to intensify efforts to convert buildings to electricity and stop heating homes with natural gas and other fossil fuels. Electricity for heating and cooling buildings is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state after car emissions – they account for about a quarter of the pollution that causes climate change.

The report recommends a number of new policies and incentives to accelerate the replacement of gas and fuel oil stoves with electrical appliances. This includes the use of heat pumps with cold climates, which can not only heat homes at negative temperatures, but also provide highly efficient air conditioning.

In a state where more than 75% of the population relies on natural gas to heat homes, the idea of ​​converting homes to heat pumps is probably the most controversial aspect of Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration’s plan to move to 100% clean energy by 2050.

The Senate approved a bill banning government agencies from installing electric heating systems earlier this year. The bill died when it did not receive approval in the Assembly at the end of the last legislative session in early January. Proponents of clean energy say there are no plans to convert the buildings to electrified ones.

Costs in question

Much of the criticism focuses on the cost of converting to heat pumps that work by collecting heat from one place and transferring it to another rather than generating heat.

According to data based on conversions in other states in the Northeast, typical costs range from $ 4,000 to $ 7,000. Opponents, however, argue that real costs are much higher at up to $ 20,000.

On Tuesday, supporters argued that by electrifying buildings, consumers will see lower annual operating costs for a typical New Jersey home equipped with a medium level of weather.

The average home will save about $ 50 annually, even with very low gas prices, such as the winter of 2020-2021. By combining electrical appliances with weather measures, many state homeowners can reduce their electricity bills by more than 50%, the report said.

“Combined with the weather, New Jersey residents will save money and improve local health by electrifying their homes,” said Amy Boyd, director of policy at the Acadia Center. “New Jersey can follow the framework set by other northeastern states to successfully, quickly and inexpensively switch to the electric future.”

For example, Massachusetts offers incentives of $ 4,000 to $ 10,000 to switch to cold-pumped heat pumps, Boyd said. It is also important to target poorly insulated homes for such conversions, she said, noting that they account for half of all state greenhouse gas emissions.

Incentives needed

Senator Andrew Zwicker (D-Mercer) said that if the state offers incentives that reduce initial costs, consumers will be more willing to switch to an electrical system that would otherwise cost more than a conventional gas or oil stove.

The state energy master plan recommends converting 22% of buildings to electric heat pumps by 2030, a goal that supporters say is not aggressive enough to meet the state’s clean energy goal.

The state master plan also states that New Jersey should convert 90% of residential and commercial buildings from natural gas to electrical appliances by 2050.

“New Jersey needs to start developing policies and incentives to promote the electrification of buildings in a way that benefits consumers, maintains low- and middle-income communities, and reduces indoor emissions,” said Tom Gilbert, director of ReThink New Jersey and the Foundation for Conservation. nature of New Jersey.

New Jersey ranks seventh among states in the country with the highest number of premature deaths, with more than 250 from outdoor air pollution directly linked to burning in buildings with gas, oil and propane, according to a study by Harvard School of Public Health TH Chan.

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