Mountain States

Colorado Aims to “Electrify the Heck” Out of Everything, Gas Stovetops Potentially Targeted

A swift transition from natural gas-fired power sources to electrification has become a top priority for Colorado Gov. Jared Polis as leading officials in his administration aim to stop fossil fuel use by consumers. Such a move raises the specter of higher costs for consumers and other impacts, especially if they lose access to popular home appliances like gas stovetops.

At a hearing held by the Air Quality Control Commission to review the state’s emissions reductions plan, Will Toor, the executive director of the Colorado Energy Office, publicly declared his office is moving aggressively to stop consumers from using fossil-fuel burning products and that the goal is to “electrify the heck out of a lot of other sectors” of the state’s economy.

In his presentation to the commission, Toor discussed legislation that will have utilities encouraging their customers to reject gas-fired appliances.

“We are working on a beneficial electrification bill that would be modeled after utility demand-side management statutes. So, for those of you that are familiar with these, Colorado for many years has had requirements that electric utilities develop demand-side management plans in which they essentially support their customers in adopting energy-efficient technology to reduce use of electricity. This would be modeled after that to require utilities to develop beneficial electrification plans that the Public Utilities Commission would set targets for beneficial electrification programs and the utilities would submit plans based upon the targets to support their customers in again moving directly burning fossil fuels to using things like electric heat pumps instead of water heaters.

Toor then said the state aims to move aggressively towards electrifying as much of the economy as possible.

“Potential electrification of the oil and gas and industrial sectors could also be a part of that. And that one is a very high priority for the administration. I think that our view of the biggest opportunities for greenhouse gas emissions reductions are very much based on the notion of moving rapidly toward clean electricity generation and electrifying the heck out of a lot of other sectors to magnify the benefits of that clean electricity.” (emphasis added)

While not mentioning the use of gas stovetops directly, Toor’s comments on electrification, particularly targeting natural gas consumers, means that traditional gas-fired stovetops could soon be effectively banned in Colorado.

Other States and Cities Seek to Ban Natural Gas

Such a move would make Colorado the latest to join the push to restrict gas-fired appliances. In July, Berkeley, Calif. became the first city in the United States to ban natural gas hookups in most new buildings and instead require electric infrastructure.

Brookline, Mass. passed a similar ban and the New York Times reports:

“Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, are in various stages of considering pro-electric legislation as part of the ‘electrify everything’ movement.” (emphasis added)

Cooking with a natural gas stove remains popular for both professional chefs and in the home as the heat comes online faster and is easier to control. In November, the California Restaurant Association sued Berkeley over its ban:

“The lawsuit alleges that Berkeley’s ban, which takes effect on Jan.1, 2020, violates state and federal laws regulating the enactment of energy use standards. The suit also argues that the restaurant industry would be irreparably harmed because a shift to electric heat would change the cooking process and increase costs.

“Chefs will have less control over the amount and intensity of heat in the cooking process without natural gas, and that will ‘affect the manner and flavor of food preparation,’ according to the lawsuit.”

Likewise, homeowners greatly prefer gas stovetops over electric, according to a survey of residents in the Pacific Northwest. NW Northwest, a gas utility, found:

“Nearly 9 of 10 (87 percent) people who recently bought or plan to buy a house ranked having a home with natural gas service as “important” to them.

“88 percent of homebuyers would choose the all-natural gas home — even if they had to pay $50,000 more for it than for a comparably outfitted, all-electric home at an average price of $381,000.”

Consumers would also likely end up paying more under Colorado’s plan to push electricity over gas. According to Consumer Affairs:

“Natural gas is almost always cheaper than electricity. Choosing all gas appliances can save you up to 30 percent on your utility bill.”

Data from the American Gas Association shows just how much that will save families:

“Households that use natural gas for heating, cooking and clothes drying save an average of $874 per year compared to homes using electricity for those applications.”

Consumer Affairs also highlighted the efficiency benefits of gas appliances:

“Gas takes the trophy as the more eco-friendly option for any appliance. Gas dryers in particular use 30 percent less energy than electric ones, which will reduce your carbon footprint.”

Coordinated Campaign Among State Governments

Colorado’s push is part of a broader move by state governments.

The Rockefeller Brothers Foundation hosted a meeting of government officials from more than a dozen Democratic-led states along with environmental activists in New York last summer titled “Accelerating State Action on Climate Change.” Toor attended that meeting in his official capacity and the agenda included a section on “Net Zero Buildings” with discussion around “standard setting and mandatory benefits” and “electrification instead of gas.”

Former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, who is now the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, was also present, as was a top official with the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute.

Conclusion

Colorado is seeking to “electrify the heck” out of everything and that means popular home appliances like gas-fired stovetops could soon be targeted. It’s a push already underway in several cities around the country and activists have strategized on how to accelerate that trend. Officials from Polis’ administration have participated in those meetings held by activists and appear intent on embracing the effort, seemingly regardless of public opinion on the issue.

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