In December 2021, NYC signed into law a ban on natural gas and other combustion fuels in most new buildings. The natural gas ban (Local Law 154 of 2021) will take effect in December 2023 for buildings under seven stories and in 2027 for buildings greater than seven stories. Under the law, construction projects submitted for approval after 2027 must use sources like electricity for stoves, space heaters and water boilers instead of gas or oil.
Most buildings run on multiple fuels. They use electricity to power lights, HVAC and electronic devices and they consume fossil fuels such as natural gas or oil to power furnaces, boilers, and water heaters.
New York City has already been a global leader in reducing building emissions, most recently through the passage and implementation of the Climate Mobilization Act and its centerpiece, Local Law 97, which places caps and penalties, $268 per metric ton over the allotted limit, on greenhouse gas emissions from existing large buildings.
The reliance on fossil fuels makes buildings one of the largest sources of planet-warming pollution. In the United States, buildings account for roughly 40 percent of the country’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. In NYC, buildings account for about 70% of its greenhouse gases, with a further breakdown by the NYC GHG Inventories revealing that fossil fuel furnaces, boilers and hot water heaters cause over 40 percent of all NYC carbon emissions, more than all uses of electricity and district steam combined.
Per a study by RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute) finds that the law will prevent 2.1 million tons of carbon emissions by 2040 — equivalent to the annual emissions of taking 450,000 cars off the road for a year.
With the passage of Local law 97 & 154, NYC will be a national leader in building electrification and decarbonization, shifting to use electricity rather than fossil fuels for building heating. Heat pumps are the enabling technology of widespread building electrification. Unlike conventional furnaces or boilers, which burn fuels to produce heat, heat pumps use electricity to send heat where it’s needed or remove it from where it’s not, much like a refrigerator. And because heat pumps can either expel heat from the indoors during the cooling season or capture heat outdoors from the ground or air and draw it indoors in winter, they offer a two-for-one benefit: heating and air-conditioning from the same equipment.