If New York wants to meet its climate goals, the state’s gas utilities can’t stick to business as usual. Nor can they keep investing billions of dollars in maintaining and expanding the nearly 50,000 miles of gas pipeline they’ve laid over the course of the past half-century.
Instead, state regulators have to start acting now to force the nearly 150-year-old industry to undergo a “managed, phased transition” to a new carbon-free path — or the consequences could be catastrophic.
That’s the key takeaway of the Future of Gas in New York State report released last week by the nonprofit Building Decarbonization Coalition. It concludes that New York must not only halt existing plans to expand and maintain gas pipelines crisscrossing the state but also replace them with alternatives such as underground “thermal energy networks” and electric heat pumps and appliances.
Building Decarbonization Coalition is a member of Upgrade NY, a coalition of environmental groups and trade unions lobbying for decarbonization policies that preserve jobs, such as thermal energy networks . “There are people out there who work for the gas company, for the building trades,” Rusteika said. “I’m not going to tell them they aren’t going to have those jobs. The good thing about thermal networks is that it’s going to put people to work.”
Regulators and lawmakers can also order gas utilities to explore broader “non-pipeline alternatives” to transition from fossil gas, Dix said. This term encompasses various methods to convert investment in pipelines to investments in energy efficiency, heat pumps, ground-source geothermal networks, district energy networks or other options.