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National Grid Says It Will Be Entirely Renewable by 2050

The utility’s commitment to entirely renewable fuel sources marks a significant step forward in complying with New York’s climate change law. Currently, most upstate homes are heated in the winter exclusively by fossil fuels.

(TNS) — National Grid, the dominant utility in the Capital Region, says it will be able to heat and power upstate homes and businesses within the next 30 years using all-renewable fuel sources, a major step forward in complying with New York's aggressive climate change law.

That may not seem like such a big deal — but it is — especially since right now most upstate homes are heated exclusively during the cold winter months with fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil and propane.

National Grid's plan also runs somewhat counter to the state's climate change policies, which are still being developed but favor using electricity rather than gas or oil to heat homes and commercial buildings. The state's effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions calls for less dependence in future years on gas pipelines that serve homes across upstate. National Grid's plan, though, would continue to rely on pipelines to transport its bio-gas — which is generated largely from the off-gassing of cow manure at dairy farms.

"We see this as a more affordable pathway than all-electric," Rudy Wynter, National Grid's New York president said Monday.

The future of fossil fuels including natural gas for heating is important in New York. Heating homes and buildings generates 39 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

National Grid says it could have all of its heating customers — both residential and business — using renewable fuels such as bio-gas and green hydrogen by 2050 instead of natural gas drilled from the ground.

The switch would be revolutionary for the utility, which for all of its history has relied on fossil fuels for a majority of its heating and power services across the state.

The plan also includes the use of electric heat pumps and other electric heat technologies in new construction.

A full-scale conversion to electric heating, which some environmentalists favor, would be too costly, National Grid says. A new heat pump installed at a home can cost $30,000, not something that the average upstate customer can afford without some type of subsidy.

"Not every customer is going to be able to afford heat pumps," Wynter said. "We think this solution offers another pathway."

National Grid says it doesn't know exactly how the switch to bio-gas and green hydrogen would impact utility bills.

But the company says it would be up to $1,000 cheaper per customer, per year, than installing all-electric equipment to heat and power all upstate homes.

In fact, National Grid says using a hybrid gas and electric approach will reduce overall energy costs for upstate utility customers by 15 percent by 2050 because of all the energy efficiency programs that will be in place by then which will reduce the need for power generation and transmission equipment.

Heat pumps are very efficient. They work like a refrigerator by using electric power to move heat from one place to another in your home. By exploiting the temperature difference between the inside and outside of a home, pumps will heat structures in winter or cool them in summer. But National Grid believes the pumps can be inadequate during severe cold snaps.

Green hydrogen is made by extracting hydrogen atoms out of water. Although green hydrogen is not widely made today, companies like Plug Power based in Latham are building new green hydrogen production facilities. These facilities are placed near renewable energy centers like hydroelectric dams as well as wind and solar farms in order to cut down on emissions.

This switch from drilled natural gas won't happen overnight. National Grid says by 2030 it hopes that as much as 20 percent of its heating gas will be from renewable sources. That's eight years away.

"We don't believe we can electrify all of it," Wynter said.

(c)2022 the Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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