The Dec. 18 article “Newport opts for electric heat over gas” mischaracterizes the non-infrastructure solution and misleads the reader. The writer points to a table that looks only at National Grid’s estimate of total costs but says nothing of the economic benefits customers receive in each scenario. No rational consumer ignores the benefits when evaluating investment choices and the Newport and Portsmouth Councils made the correct decision when endorsing the non-infrastructure approach. To see the value proposition of each solution, one must simply read forward in National Grid’s own study to Figure 16 on Page 97. Examining this table, which includes proven and measurable near- and long-term benefits to consumers, one readily sees the non-infrastructure solution as the best value to replace the Old Mill Lane Liquefied Natural Gas facility in Portsmouth.
The reason is simple: much of National Grid’s projected costs of the non-infrastructure solution are in the form of incentives—ratepayer funds that go back into the hands of customers for home improvements that provide economic benefits through measures like weatherization and replacement of fossil fuel appliances. These measures increase home values and lower consumers’ overall energy needs. Weatherization methods, like insulation and draft sealing, help reduce the amount of heated or cooled air your home loses each season. Meanwhile, modern electric replacements of fossil fuel appliances deliver superior performance and safety at higher efficiency. For instance, electric heat pumps are at least 300% more energy efficient than even the best gas furnaces. Electric heat pumps also work in reverse to provide energy efficient air conditioning in the summer months—one system for all seasons.
Utilities earn more ratepayer money when they build new infrastructure, like gas mains to serve new customers. So it is no wonder National Grid doesn’t support a moratorium on new gas connections. Since your home already has the electricity to run electric heat pumps and other electric appliances, National Grid wouldn’t benefit as much financially from pursuing the non-infrastructure solution. Conversely, the utility proposals to build new gas infrastructure generally provide more financial benefit to the utility than to customers—they will enable National Grid to expand its customer base, sell more gas, and collect more revenue for shareholders.
Ultimately, National Grid will be spending your ratepayer dollars on a solution. Shouldn’t it be the one that reduces your energy needs, improves air quality through electrification, and increases safety by reducing our communities’ exposure to explosive and toxic gas?
Read the 0p-ed by Hank Webster, our Rhode Island Director in the Newport Daily News here.