At steveworks, we always recommend the most efficient and cleanest products to our clients – whether it’s building materials, appliances, deck materials, or even heat pumps. These decisions often involve tradeoffs, as carbon impact, price, aesthetics, comfort, recycled content etc. don’t always dictate the same solution. However, in the case of gas vs. electricity the case is actually pretty clear.
Electricity is “Getting Cleaner”
We are often asked about how is electricity is produced. After all, if petroleum or coal is being burned to create the electricity, aren’t we better off with gas? Let’s look at how electricity is produced. The United States has almost completely eliminated petroleum from electricity generation (in the 1970s, about 19% of electricity was produced from petroleum). In 2008, 51% of electricity was produced by burning coal – pretty much the “dirtiest” thing we can burn. However, in 2018, coal only accounted for 32% of electric production while solar and wind power made up a lot of the difference. The bottom line: electricity just keeps getting cleaner as renewable sources such as wind and solar become more prevalent across the country.
The story behind electric production is New England is even better. The New England power grid is the cleanest around, and only getting cleaner. The graphic below, from ISO New England, the organization that tracks the flow of electricity throughout the New England region, shows the breakdown how our electric energy is produced across the region.
Newton Power Choice
The local story here in Newton, MA is even more exciting. In March of this year our city started the Newton Power Choice program which obtains 60 percent of our power from renewable resources such as solar and wind – that’s 46 percent above the state mandate for renewables – impressive! PLUS, homeowners here can opt in to pay just a little bit more (an additional $2.91 per month) and receive 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy. Eversource is still our local utility provider. Click here to learn more about this program.
Choosing Efficient Appliances
We consistently recommend electric appliances, heat pumps water heaters, and heat pump HVAC systems when we’re working with homeowners. Heat pumps use less energy and result in fewer carbon emissions than their natural gas-driven counterparts. Plus, these choices come with excellent Energy Star ratings and…even better…REBATES and tax credits.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the one appliance we know many homeowners desire be gas-driven: the stove. We understand…many of you really really want a gas stove, but, the truth is, that induction stoves work just as well. Don’t believe us? In fact, chefs training at The Culinary Institute of America in New York are trained on both gas and induction cooktops and most would agree that induction is just as good as gas. The added bonus is that induction burners are cool to the touch – they only heat up metal – that’s a great benefit, particularly if you have children or teens learning to cook.
Brookline Moves to “Electric Only” Heating in New Construction/Gut Renos
Thirteen cities and one county in California PLUS our very own Brookline, Massachusetts have made a bold move toward banning heating oil and natural gas according to a recent USA Today article which said, “The codes, most of them passed since June, are meant to keep builders from running natural gas lines to new homes and apartments, with an eye toward creating fewer legacy gas hookups as the nation shifts to carbon-neutral energy sources.”
This is a bold move for Brookline and was just approved at Town Meeting in November, 2019, but which still needs to be approved by the state attorney general’s office. According to Brookline state Rep. Tommy Vitolo, “When you’re in a hole, you stop digging. We must reduce the carbon emissions in our buildings dramatically.” So, if you live in Brookline, you can still choose to gut renovate and COOK with gas, but you can’t heat your home with it moving forward.
Despite rumors to the contrary, climate change is very real and it’s up to us to make better decisions that will lead to a future free of greenhouse gasses. We know that many people will choose not to retrofit their homes to use more electricity, but we do hope that, when the time comes to remodel, this information will help guide our clients towards solutions that will not only save them money in the long-run, but that are the right ones for our environment.