LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Different Perspective on Natural Gas Moratorium
Letter to the Editor | March 2019
I’m Ann Finneran, and I am an Associate Broker with RM Farm Real Estate in Livingston Manor, NY.
I was also a charter member of Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Energy (SASD), whose mission is “to promote a new standard for mindful development that is environmentally responsible, socially equitable and economically just; to inspire the residents of Sullivan County to embrace the principles and practices of sustainability as personal and civic values; and to make energy efficiency and renewable energy accessible for all.”
Therefore, I have read the recent in Real Estate In-Depth articles, and Richard Haggerty’s opinion about Con Edison’s natural gas moratorium with interest, and thanked Haggerty for his call for “an honest and urgent discussion”.
I have an entirely different perspective to offer—primarily that this moratorium presents not a reason to panic, but a real opportunity to move New York State into the 21st Century big time.
There is indeed a very cost effective “home run” alternative in place already planned and being used in many areas in Upstate New York for home heating and commercial heating, in particular for new constructions: heat pump technology, either through air exchange or geothermal. The best thing is that heat pump technology is not impacted by the various external costs, nor the threat of obsolescence inherent in fossil fuels as we approach a very real post-carbon world. In addition, heat pump technologies have recently become viable in the colder climates.
I have consulted with some environmental expert sources on the matter, and for starters was presented with the following thoughts:
“I think the primary argument has to be that fossil fuel energy is 20th century, passé, and just plain blinkered as well as a technology whose price will simply escalate as renewables prices continue their tumbling trend of the last decade-plus, as homebuyers get educated and savvy and more demanding of fossil-fuel-free homes and lives. Younger families (first-time homebuyers) are increasingly aware of and troubled by climate change and unpreparedness. Smart homebuilders and sellers recognize this and will adapt accordingly and rapidly.” says, journalist and educator Maura Stephens, who studies energy and the environment.
Recently cited by Forbes, a report from the Rocky Mountain Institute, The Economics of Electrifying Buildings, finds that “we have the opportunity to meet nearly all our buildings’ energy needs with electricity from an increasingly low-carbon electric grid, eliminating direct fossil fuel use in buildings and making obsolete much of the gas distribution system—along with its costs and safety challenges.”
Tompkins County’s comprehensive study on similar options reports, “Over a 20-year period the higher initial costs are offset by lower operating costs making air source heat pumps less expensive on a 20-year lifecycle cost basis.”
I urge you and those in Westchester County to think more creatively and seriously consider this great opportunity to move away from fossil fuels and into the future, for the environment as well as the costs of development. The shelf life of natural gas systems is a not long and in not many years it will be necessary to transition, and those costs will be tremendous. Don’t you think it makes sense to make the transition now, while the chance presents itself via new construction?
Let’s follow SASD’s suggestion: “Integrating financial analysis with engineering and architectural design, selection site, materials and technologies is the key to achieving energy independent or zero net energy construction.”
Ann Finneran is an Associate Broker with RM Farm Real Estate in Livingston Manor.