10 November 2020
22 September 2020
As you create your budget for 2021, the NEHPBA Board needs your support, once again, in continuing our very successful and effective campaign to fight on your behalf against gas and fossil fuels bans in the Northeast. We hope that you can once again assist in funding our regional lobbying efforts.
As you know, we have hired O’Neil & Associates, a prestigious lobbying firm with whom we have been very effective in fighting Energy Zero (Net-Zeo/Electrification/Gas Ban) Issues. This has been a valuable and worthy expense to forward our progress. We are asking all members as well as HPBA to help us fund this cause for continuing the fight into 2021. You may or may not know that several members, including dealers, manufacturers and distributors, have agreed to funding help. As you know, there is great concern with the relentless initiative to ban natural gas and fossil fuels in our region. With the help of our lobbying firm we have so far been very successful.
Here is some insight into a few of our winning campaigns:
We are also working on a "Save Our Natural Gas and Propane" campaign hopefully in combination with Propane Gas of New England (PGANE) and HPBA, we are publishing regular press releases on “energy diversity and security”, Joel Etter (NEHPBA President) and I will be participating in a podcast with O’Neil & Associates on this subject in October, and we are closely monitoring legislation in CT regarding greater accountability in the utility sector, natural gas legislation in NY, as well as licensing legislation in VT.
NEHPBA has joined the Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy (MCSE) and The Empowerment Alliance. NEHPBA had a hand in writing and editing the MCSE letter to the conferees regarding the MA Climate Bill.
We will continue the fight for Clean and Affordable Energy. Please join us. We appreciate any donation either monthly or a one-time sponsorship. https://nehpba.org/donation#!form/Sponsorship
Thank you for your Support. Please let me know if you have any questions at all. I am available via phone and email anytime.
9 September 2020
While life is drastically different this year, one thing is sure—hearth, patio, and barbecue sales have been heating up all year. HPBExpo is your best opportunity to reconnect with the industry and access the latest trends, technology and training that will ensure your customers turn to you when they invest in their homes and businesses.
Held in the heartland of Nashville, HPBExpo’s vibrant location will attract top retailers coming to see suppliers showcase their latest products and innovations your customers will be demanding in upcoming seasons. With the barbecue market poised to grow by more than $3 billion by 2023 and the hearth market by almost $4 billion by 2023, consumers are investing heavily in their homes. Make sure you’re part of it by registering now for HPBExpo.
Join Us for Three Days of:
Registration begins tomorrow, September 10, 2020! Register now. For more information, contact NEHPBA.
6 August 2020
August 6, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEHPBA: Preserving access to natural gas and other fuel sources is critical for emergency readiness in major weather events
Sudbury, MA – The Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association today said that widespread power outages being experienced across New England highlight the critical nature of energy diversity and the risks of over-dependence on electric power for household and commercial heating, cooking and cooling.
More than 220,000 households were without power in Massachusetts following Tropical Storm Isaias late Tuesday night, while approximately 50,000 lost power in New Hampshire. Rhode Island reported over 100,000 households without power after the storm, and a staggering 700,000 homes were still without power Thursday morning across Connecticut, leaving work crews scrambling to restore service and state officials furious at utility response times.
“Tropical Storm Isaias is a summer weather event, but it’s a vivid illustration of how huge sections of the power grid can be knocked out in a matter of minutes at any time of the year,” said Joel Etter, President of NEHPBA and Senior Wholesale Account Manager for Hearth & Home Technologies. “Winter Nor’easters, blizzards and ice storms are something we are all too familiar with in New England. When the grid goes down in those conditions, over-reliance on electric power can be dangerous.”
NEHPBA is part of a cross-section of industry associations and advocates fighting to maintain energy diversity in the marketplace – as special interests support initiatives to ban natural gas, complicate regulations around propane and wood-burning fuel products and limit choices for home-heating systems. The industry is working together with other businesses as well as consumers to ensure natural gas continues to be available in New England and the Northeast as part of a complete range of energy choices.
Banning new natural gas connections or curbing existing use dramatically will hurt Americans when costs of living are already high. The over-reliance on electric power for heating and cooking exposes households to higher risks when major weather events knock out the grid.“New England households need diverse energy choices to maintain financial stability, and to protect families when the region’s electric power infrastructure sustains massive failure– as we are seeing today,” said Karen Luther, Executive Director of NEHPBA. “It happens in the summer and it happens in winter. It happened this week and it will happen again.”
About the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association
Since 1985, the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) has represented the interests of the hearth industry in the Northeast. NEHPBA was originally incorporated in January 1985 as the Northeast Solid Fuel Alliance (NESFA) in recognition of the unique demands of business in the Northeast. In June of 1992, NESFA members voted to become the first affiliated member of the national Hearth Products Association (HPA) and became the Northeast Hearth Products Association (NEHPA). In 2002, NEHPA became the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) in conjunction with the merger of the national HPA with the Barbecue Industry Association to become the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), thus recognizing the diversification of the modern industry. The NEHPBA name has remained since 2002.
29 July 2020
With hot and humid conditions enveloping New England, demand for electricity across the region hit its highest level so far this year at about 6:30 p.m. Monday.
This year’s peak experience in many ways highlights how the regional power grid is changing and how far it has to go to fully decarbonize.
ISO New England, the organization that oversees the regional power grid, had forecast this summer’s peak usage would hit 25,500 megawatts between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Actual usage came in at 24,736 megawatts, more than 300 megawatts higher than last year’s peak but nearly 1,600 megawatts lower than 2018.
The all-time peak usage in the region was 28,130 megawatts on August 2, 2006. Peak usage has been stagnant or dropping in recent years, primarily due to energy efficiency efforts that have helped curb overall electricity demand by 3,300 megawatts and small-scale solar and wind installations that reduce demand for power from the grid.
COVID-19 is also playing a role this year. Energy usage appears to be higher in residential homes as more people stay at home but lower in commercial and industrial facilities. Overall, ISO New England estimates, COVID-19 has cut energy demand by 3 to 5 percent.
Peaks have out-sized importance because the region needs enough power plants to meet demand when demand is at its highest point. Lowering the peak is beneficial since it means the region can get by with fewer power plants.
Peaks used to occur in the afternoon, when temperatures hit their highest levels and air conditioners are going full tilt. But the deployment of solar panels on roofs across the region has pushed the peak into the early evening. During the afternoon, the behind-the-meter solar installations produce the most power. As the sun begins to set, however, solar power production falls off and the region becomes more and more dependent on large-scale power generators.
There is lots of talk on Beacon Hill about going 100 percent renewable, but Monday’s peak experience illustrates how far the region has to go. The regional power grid handled Monday’s surge in electricity demand easily, but in doing so it relied primarily on power generated by natural gas (70 percent), nuclear (16 percent), hydro (8 percent), renewables (5 percent), and even a bit of oil and coal. The oil and coal plants tend to come online only when demand is at its highest.
Most energy analysts want to decarbonize the economy using electricity. Cars and trucks, for example, would shift from gasoline to electricity. Electricity would also be used for heat and hot water in homes and commercial buildings. Brookline took a step in this direction recently by approving a bylaw banning pipes carrying natural gas and oil in all new construction. Attorney General Maura Healey, while sympathetic to the bylaw’s intent, rejected the measure because it conflicted with three state laws.
If the region’s power grid doesn’t go green, the shift to electricity won’t pay many environmental dividends. That’s why the state is pursuing the purchase of offshore wind and hydro-electricity from Canada, to help reduce reliance on natural gas and other fossil fuels.
As of Tuesday morning, however, the power grid was relying most on natural gas. According to ISO New England’s real-time information, the grid’s power was coming primarily from natural gas (74 percent), with the balance from nuclear (19 percent), renewables (5 percent), and hydroelectricity (2 percent).
Commonwealth Daily Download, By Bruce Mohl
28 May 2020
Once again the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) is holding a vote that could pass a State-Wide Net Zero stretch code (now called "EZ" stretch code for "Energy Zero"). Please sign and submit this letter to the chair of the BBRS and help stop this new building code from passing and having a dramatic effect across Massachusetts!
There is a lot of support for this from environmental advocates and this type of policy has already passed at the city level in Brookline, MA. This means it's even more important for our industry to stand up and make our opposition heard.
Click the link and fill out the form to send an email opposing this effort.
30 April 2020
Congratulations. You did it. You not only found a bank to accept your Paycheck Protection Program application, but the bank managed to get it to the U.S. Small Business Administration before the program ran out of funding. Lots of your peers are still scrambling to secure PPP financing. Not you. That money’s already in your bank account.
Now comes the hard part.
Out of necessity, the federal government created and opened up PPP in a hurry, before it had figured out exactly how the program would work. For that reason, you applied for PPP loans in a hurry. Many of your peers — maybe you — were ordered closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Getting that loan was a matter of survival. Now that you have the financing, you need to stick to the SBA’s rules, to ensure as much of the loan is forgiven as possible. But that’s not easy: The SBA is still clarifying the terms of forgiveness, even as you’re planning to comply with terms you signed weeks ago.
Experts say you might be in for a shock.
“I think many borrowers thought this was going to be fully forgivable, and I dare say, many of them are going to be surprised,” said Jim Browne, a Boston-based partner with the professional services firm Withum.
Just because the application process was a little fast and loose at the start doesn’t mean banks and the government won’t be bigger sticklers going forward.
“On the back end, there’s going to be more diligence than on the front end, in terms of how this money was expended,” Browne said.
The Business Journal spoke with bankers, accountants, lawyers and entrepreneurs about what business owners should do to ensure they avoid run-ins with lenders and bureaucrats and keep the amount of the loan they need to pay back as small as possible. Here’s the advice they shared.
Don’t be afraid to hire back employees, even if the work’s not there
Many Massachusetts business owners are in a quandary. Their businesses are closed entirely, because they’re considered nonessential, or they’re operating in a much-diminished capacity because customers are stuck at home. They’ve laid off most (or all) of their employees, because the business just isn’t there.
But under PPP rules, they must spend now 75% of the loan on payroll costs in the eight weeks after they receive the loan, if they want it to be forgiven. (The clock starts ticking as soon as the money hits their bank account.)
To reach the 75% threshold, they can hire back their one-time employees, but those workers may make more under the stimulus program’s enhanced unemployment benefits than they would on the job. And at the moment, there might be little to no work for employees to actually do.
Or they can forget about forgiveness, and treat the financing as a true loan rather than a grant. While the interest rate is only 1%, that may still be a big risk, given how much uncertainty there is around how long businesses will stay closed, and what revenue will look like once they reopen. The loan must be paid back in two years.
To avoid that risk, experts urge business owners to consider staffing back up, even if under normal circumstances they wouldn’t add to payroll.
“I’m advising them to bring them back as soon as they can, because obviously, the whole purpose of the program is to get people off unemployment,” said Thomas Petrocelli, a Wakefield accountant.
Employers should think creatively about how to use staffers. ThinkLite LLC, a Natick-based lighting company that received a PPP loan through Needham Bank, has employees taking online courses during work hours to learn new skills, or working on new research projects, Chief Operating Officer Danny Wadhwani said.
If most or all of the loan is not forgiven, it’s not necessarily the end of the world, given the low interest rate, accountants said. But owners should make that decision knowing the risks.
“If I have to pay that back at 1% over two years, I’m going to do that if it means we can stay alive,” said Joe Caligiuri, owner of Dedham training facility Stadium Performance, who plans to bring back all of his employees by July 1.
Keep careful track of everything
It’s essential that businesses document every penny they spend of the PPP money. The loan is supposed to be reserved for payroll expenses, as well as mortgage interest, rent and utility costs. If they send a rent check to their landlord, they should copy the check ahead of time and file it away. The same goes for electronic invoices.
Business owners might consider setting up a separate bank account for the loan to make the divide between the PPP money and other funds even clearer, though accountants say that’s not strictly necessary.
A good audit trail is important not just for accuracy’s sake, but for speed. Banks faced a glut of applications at the PPP’s kickoff. In a few weeks, they’ll face a glut of borrowers seeking sign-off that their loans are forgiven. Given how busy lenders will be, a misstep could mean significantly more time to achieve that sign-off.
“If you can put yourself in a position where everything is organized and they can easily see what you’ve done, it’s going to make the process so much smoother,” Nutter attorney Joshua French said.
Keep your counselors on speed dial
Even nearly a month after the PPP launched, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around how loan forgiveness will work. More guidance is expected, but the SBA’s previous attempts at clarification have left a lot of questions, according to experts.
With so much still up in the air, business owners should be in regular contact with their bankers, accountants and lawyers for any updates on the SBA’s thinking. Withum’s Browne recommends reaching out to them daily, or every other day.
At a minimum, businesses should check in with their bank a week or two before the PPP’s eight-week run time is up, according to Salem Five CEO Ping Yin Chai.
Remember, it’s about more than maintaining payroll
One thing that is certain: There’s more to achieving forgiveness than keeping the same headcount. If you cut pay for employees making less than $100,000 a year by more than 25%, that will hurt the amount of the loan that you can recover.
It’s important to note that, when calculating change in headcount, a firm can compare its current staffing level to either its full-time equivalent headcount in the first two months in 2020, or the same metric for Feb. 15, 2019, to June 30, 2019. If a business had been in growth mode prior to the pandemic, and its headcount was low last year, that will help it out now.
Given the changes caused by the pandemic, employers might also consider whether it makes sense to hire employees with new skill sets, rather than re-hire only laid-off workers. ThinkLite, for instance, plans to hire web developers to bolster its ecommerce platform, since remote work will be more popular in a post-pandemic world, Wadhwani said.
It’s a weird time. But don’t get too weird.
The federal government got blowback when larger, publicly traded companies secured PPP loans before many small businesses did. Officials have indicated that going forward, they will be scrutinizing loan recipients more closely. So no, you shouldn’t go investing the loan money in the stock market, or paying dividends to shareholders.
French has a simple test for deciding whether an expenditure will draw “the quadruple P — the PPP police,” as he calls them. Ask yourself, would I be doing this right now if it wasn’t for the PPP? For instance, if you’re thinking about giving employees big bonuses just to hit that 75% payroll threshold — would you be handing out big bonuses this spring if not for the loan?
“If it’s not something you would have done normally, then I’d be nervous about doing it now,” French said.
27 April 2020
Plan to join the CVC Success Group April 27 through May 1, 2020 as we continue our free virtual training presentations with CEUs for the coming week. Read on for the details of each class we will present live in the coming week. Our webinars are presented for the training of the industry workforces.
Sales Training Monday, April 27, 2 PM EST
Join the Retail Guys Training with instructor Tim Reed presenting his program entitled “Win More Showroom Sales” a perfect class for anyone in sales or sales management, with a showroom or for those who operate without a showroom. So even if you don’t have a showroom the tactics Tim will share will be a benefit for you.
To register for the free class, click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3389727684660026640. Once you submit, you will receive your private link to attend the session.
Gas Training Wednesday, April 29, 2 PM Eastern Time
This will be another gas training with industry veteran Bob Wise teaching live. You can ask your questions of Bob during the interactive presentation. This class will be one that will provide you answers on how to address field issues you may encounter during installations, service calls, and callbacks.
To join the class, simply click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2732416543831406096. Once you submit, you will receive your private link to join the class as it goes live at 2 PM Wednesday, April 29.
Chimney Training Thursday, April 30, 2 PM Eastern Time
This will be a course for anyone in the chimney industry. This will be presented by Jerry Isenhour & Tom Urban. In this class we will be sharing methods of how service technicians will communicate and do their jobs in the new next of the changes the market will require.
To attend this class, simply click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1757912791063879184.
Office Training Friday, May 1, 2 PM Eastern Time
This will be a presentation of The History of Chimney Service In America. This class is a documentary of the chimney service industry and can relate how technology has changed the industry. An excellent class for any member of the chimney and hearth industries to increase their understanding of where we have been and where we are going.
To join the class, click the link https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5923380707056150544. You will receive a private link to join the class will be emailed directly to you.
All CVC Success Group live training is conducted using GoToWebinar, attendance at classes is tracked electronically, and CEUs are provided utilizing a code word system. Upon completion of a class, once you have submitted your code words and request for CEUs, CVC will prepare an attendance certificate that is sent to you and filed with the certifying agency you are certified by.
CAN’T MAKE THE CLASS?
The CVC live classes are recorded and then stored in the CVC Base Camp library of courses joining the over 600 courses that are in the CVC Library. Want more information, simply click on www.cvcbasecamp.com or contact us at email@example.com and we will forward your information on how to subscribe, with learner seats starting at $39.00 a month for 60 days, it is the most cost-effective online learning platform available.
We are CVC Success Group, and we are here to assist industry members through these challenging times. If you have ideas on how we can provide this assistance, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are all in this together!
16 April 2020
I found this article and thought I would share it in light of the Webinar Series by Tim Reed, Creating a Digital Sales System, that Northeast HPBA is offering to our members. This excerpt is very insightful and talks about how retailers and small businesses must Adapt to Shifts in Digital Consumption.
The part of the article that I found most valuable begins below:
COVID “has changed the way we internet” showing a significant shift in behavior from mobile to desktop. It's essential to ensure that all marketing messages are consistent between channels and optimized for both mobile and desktop.
More desktop time also means higher email open rates. It's a good time to continue emailing your customers as long as the messaging is considerate, provides real value, and is in touch with the current situation. Now is not the time to drive a sense of urgency around nonessential items.
Take a “crisis approach” to measurement. Create new, more frequent reporting based on the most up-to-date results you can derive. Comparing year-over-year or month-over-month results won't provide an accurate picture of digital marketing performance. Instead, build a day-over-day report beginning March 9. Watch higher-funnel metrics (e.g., engagement rates, click-through rates, brand search volume) at a channel and campaign level so that you can quickly evaluate what’s working and what's not.
Adjust your messaging to show care and respect for the customer’s constantly changing situation. More than ever, we need to be customer-first, and this means understanding what customers are going through right now. Retailers should be aware of the torrent of troubling headlines and support messaging that emphasizes an understanding of the customer’s current needs or mind-set. Review every piece of creative to ensure that it reflects that understanding.
It’s not just a matter of being careful in how you message around COVID — there's also an opportunity to extend a welcome hand by finding creative ways to bring your customer service experience to digital platforms. For example, many home décor brands are offering online interior design consultation as a way to stay connected to customers. Consider ways to shift in-person customer interactions and services online with a focus on providing value to best customers.
Take the Reigns
Above all, know that now is not the time to cut back arbitrarily. Never walk away from communicating with your best customers and best prospects. The retailers that act nimbly and decisively today can uncover unique opportunities to maintain those critical relationships in a time of rapid change and upheaval.
You can RSVP to our webinar series with Tim Reed here. Contact Karen@NEHPBA.org for access to the first webinar in the series.
Read the full article here
2 April 2020
There have been quite a few employee/employer questions. Some finally have some answers. For more click here.
Q. If my employer is open, but furloughs me on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?
No. If your employer furloughs you because it does not have enough work or business for you, you are not entitled to then take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.
Q. If my employer closes my work-site on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but tells me that it will reopen at some time in the future, can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?
No, not while your work-site is closed. If your employer closes your work-site, even for a short period of time, you are not entitled to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your work-site for lack of business or because it was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx. If your employer reopens and you resume work, you would then be eligible for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave as warranted.
27 March 2020
Many businesses have been asking what they can do to get the necessary funds they need to keep their businesses in operation. Many have also asked if they should "lay off" all of their employees, or if they have other potential options.
The purpose of this post is to provide you with a few potential options in dealing with the above issues:
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans
As the coronavirus pandemic prompts disaster declarations at the state and county level, small businesses and not-for-profits in those areas can apply online for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
An SBA Section 7(b) Economic Injury Disaster Loan provides up to $2 million to help business with fewer than 500 employees pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that can’t be paid due to the loss of revenue caused by a declared disaster. The loans cannot be used to cover lost profits.
The interest rates for the loans are 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for not-for-profits. The SBA determines terms on a case-by-case basis, based on each borrower’s capacity for making monthly loan repayments. The maximum loan term is 30 years.
The loans also offer a one-year deferment on payments. This means that the first payment isn’t due until a year after the official date of the loan. However, interest starts accruing on the loan the moment the funds are disbursed.
Please click this link to learn more and apply SBA Loan Application
Employee Related Issues
Many clients have also asked what their options are with employees besides laying them off. The IRS is coming our with various tax credits to assist with the payment of workers impacted by the Corona Virus.
The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. We have been told that this page will be updated as new information is available. Please click this link to learn about these programs IRS Employee Wage Programs
Looming Tax Return Deadlines
At this point in time the IRS has also extended the due date of all income tax returns, and tax payments due on April 15, 2020 until July 15, 2020.
We hope that you follow the recommendations of health officials and stay safe through this unsettling time.
Questions? Contact NEHPBA.
Info from Napoleon/Christopher R. Lambert & Associates
18 March 2020
This was just sent out from HPBA:
The health and safety of HPBExpo attendees and exhibitors are of primary importance to us every year, and more so this year. We have been continuously monitoring the COVID-19 situation before, during and since HPBExpo in New Orleans.
We recently learned that there are presumptive cases of COVID-19 involving two members of an HPBExpo exhibitor's staff who were present at the Expo. Out of an abundance of caution, we want to share this information with you so you can take necessary steps to monitor your health and well-being.
We currently do not know whether these individuals had symptoms at the Expo or whether they attended during the COVID-19 incubation period. We are in contact with the relevant health authorities to provide them with this information and to obtain further guidance.
These are challenging and unprecedented times for our community. HPBA will continue to share updated information at HPBExpo.com, we encourage you to check this link for any updates. Our thoughts are with those affected and we wish them a full recovery.
If you have flu-like symptoms, reach out to your medical provider for advice on next steps. Please refer to the following CDC recommendations [mmsend34.com] for protecting yourself and others.
17 March 2020
HPBA is aware of the impact of COVID-19 closures on retailers, especially those who may still have Step 1 products in stock. As businesses limit operating hours, HPBA will be reaching out to Congress to urge relief due to these exceptional circumstances. It may be possible to get additional time for product sell-through, but we need your immediate help in order to do so.
What You Need to Do
Send an email to Rachel Feinstein (Feinstein@hpba.org) by 3:00 pm EDT Thursday, March 19 with the following information:
Unless and until any extension is passed, the legal deadline remains May 15, 2020. If you have any question, feel free to contact Northeast HPBA or HPBA.
14 February 2020
John Crouch, HPBA Government Affairs, sent me this article and I found it interesting. It's long, but I've highlighted the sections that I found the most pertinent and interesting. Can common sense prevail? We'll see....
Washington — State regulators were served a strong dose of skepticism Sunday about municipal bans on natural gas hookups in new buildings from parties concerned about the consumer costs and the wisdom of setting key energy policies outside the state utility regulation construct.
Depending on how widespread it becomes, the wave of bans, as well as other incentives for building electrification, could have broad implications for the residential fuel mix and the future of gas distribution infrastructure and demand.
"My experience has been that the city councils aren't necessarily the source of balanced information, just and reasonable cost estimates, all the things that are part of the utility regulatory framework that makes determinations on the capital infrastructure investments," said Timothy Simon, a former California Public Utility Commission member.
Simon, who currently represents several local distribution companies, was among panelists urging caution about the bans during a staff gas subcommittee meeting at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners winter policy summit.
While residential energy use makes up only 7% of California's carbon dioxide emissions, "it's gaining the ire and the attack of city councils across my great state," he said. The "real culprit" in his view is transportation, which makes up 41% of CO2 emissions and is concentrated around big rig diesel trucks. Those trucks "generally don't run through Bel Air and Beverly Hills, he said. "They generally are running by black and brown communities that are in industrial sections near ports of entry and other areas."
Beginning with a ban in Berkeley, California, municipal gas bans have spread through California and appeared in the Boston area and Washington state.
Bill Malcolm, senior legislative representative from AARP, said that while his group does not favor one type of fuel over another, it has raised questions in several states about rate impacts for low and moderate income residents.
"I just checked the numbers and natural gas is now at $1.85/MMBtu, and just to put that in perspective, in 2012 it was actually $12/MMBtu," he said. "So where is the new power for the new load going to come from?" he said.
In Connecticut, for instance, AARP filed comments questioning whether incentives to install electric heat pumps over gas furnaces would benefit ratepayers and whether it would drive up peak power demand, he noted.
What role state regulators will play in the debate is "the multi-billion question that will most likely be settled by the courts," said Andreas Thanos, a Massachusetts regulator who chairs the NARUC gas staff subcommittee, when reached by email.
While PUCs grant the franchise allowing an LDC to go into a town or city, municipalities are using their bylaws to implement the bans. "So the PUCs will most likely not weigh in on the issue until the courts decide," he said.
Dianne Solomon, a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities commissioner, said she also sees a movement by states to empower their departments of environmental protection to "get into this space, take it out of the hands of the utility regulators and suggest that all projects going forward would have to have some environmental impact."
Several state regulators suggested green groups have had the more effective messaging thus far.
"I have heard a lot from the environmental advocates, Sierra Club and what have you, saying why we should have the natural gas bans," said Greer Gillis, a member of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia, adding it was important to get the views aired in the room out into the mainstream.
Judith Schwartz, a former utility commissioner from Palo Alto, where a municipal "reach code" encouraging all electric construction was adopted, contended "while the intentions are good, the reality of what [gas bans] are doing is minimal." During the winter "you have natural gas and imports making up the shortfall of every single hour of the day," she said.
Still, speaking from the audience, David Kolata with the Citizens Utility Board of Illinois, said he believed the issue was more complicated than the dialogue Sunday suggested.
"It's pretty clear that in every blue state, we're going to need to deliver a plan" that keeps the increase in temperatures due to climate change under 2 degrees Celsius, he said, with the modeling showing the need to decarbonize electricity, heating and transportation.
"Given that, how do we think about this from a consumer advocate point of view, where money spent on natural gas right now and natural gas infrastructure could very well be stranded?" he said.
5 February 2020
We are seeing an increasing number of jurisdictions seriously talking about converting their communities to all-electric homes. These efforts are failing to consider key issues.
1. Many communities reference solar energy as a viable option for homes without discussing the challenges. Solar electricity generation is great during the day, but without widespread electrical storage, taking advantage of that electricity is difficult. We don’t often see mention of the associated cost of not just the solar panels, but also necessary electrical storage.
There must be a discussion about the demand curve of electricity. This curve shows the modest demand for electricity in the day (people getting ready in the morning), the demand drop-off during the middle of the day (people are away from home, but solar is plentiful, weather permitting), and then the steep ramp-up in electricity demand in the evening (people return home, preparing meals, heating homes, etc.). The fluctuations of the demand curve will become steeper with a higher demand for electricity brought on by all-electric homes. Storage options will help mitigate this demand, but they are expensive, and history has shown that most people who opt for solar do not add storage, usually due to high costs.
Solar will be limited in its practicality depending on location and climate. In sunnier areas with clear lines of sight, solar is a good option for supplementing energy. In snow country, poor weather, or limited visibility (trees, nearby buildings, etc.), solar does not produce at optimal levels, if at all.
2. Electricity is not known for its resiliency during winter storms or other emergency situations. Without storage, if the power goes out, you have no power to heat, cook, or bathe if you depend on grid electricity, which the vast majority of consumers do. With natural gas or propane, you have much better resiliency for an energy source. Even if the gas-burning central furnace won’t run during a power outage because it relies on electricity to run the fan, your gas fireplaces, gas stovetops, and gas hot water heaters all continue to operate.
3. Related to the last point, we must think about the expected increased electrical rate costs. If everyone moves to a single fuel source, the demand is higher, which in-turn will very likely increase the cost. The electricity generated during the day via solar has minor value, as electricity is not in demand then. With most utilities having moved, or moving, to a Time Of Use (TOU) billing model for electricity, the highest energy in demand (during the evening) will also be the most expensive.
4. One of the primary reasons to move to all-electric homes is to lower carbon dioxide emissions. However, unless the electricity is coming directly from a renewable resource (solar panels, wind, hydro, etc.), it will be coming from a central power plant. Central power plants have very low efficiency rates – far lower than most residential furnaces or room heaters. On average, the highest efficiency rate for a natural gas-burning power plant is about 43%, with coal, oil, and nuclear efficiencies being even lower (31-33%)1. When you consider that residential gas-burning furnaces operate at a minimum of 80-82% efficiency, and then only as needed, it’s clear that fewer emissions are created from homes heated with natural gas than all-electric homes which draw from central power plants.
There is a bias evident in this effort to promote electrification. We’ve seen articles that say that 45% of carbon dioxide emissions are from electricity and heat in Canada, but if you look closer at the data, we find that only 6% is from homes using natural gas. The rest is from industrial, manufacturing, municipal and commercial. These sources will certainly be affected by changing to electrification, but the impact will be seen and felt differently. Focusing on converting homes to all-electric is an expensive proposition for the homeowner and not necessarily the best choice for the environment.
Studies show that electrification will cause price increases. It could be the increased cost to buy a new home due to new technologies will drive even more people out of the homebuyer market with five-figure increases. But electrification will also raise the cost for an average household by between $750 and $910 per year, just based on normal use of electricity from the grid.
Consumers deserve to be able to make their own decisions on how they heat their homes and cook their meals. Electrification not only removes that consumer choice, but also could shut the door to new and promising technological advances like renewable natural gas.
It’s time for everyone to understand the full cost of electrification.
For more information, contact NEHPBA.
23 January 2020
Here is an update on Net Zero/Gas Ban Events around New England and New York. Is Northeast HPBA missing anything? Is there anything we don't know about that is happening in your area that we need to know? Contact us!
There are 240 towns out of 311 towns in MA considering this stretch code.
Right now NEHPBA is Networking with: Plumbers Union, VP of Government Affairs and VP of Communications with National Grid, Community Relations Specialist at Eversource, Director at Eversource, President of the Union for Eversource, New England Gas Workers Alliance, PROGANE (Propane Gas of New England), Regional AGA affiliate, Massachusetts Chimney Sweeps, BBRS, numerous building inspectors in MA, NAIOP, National Grid in RI.
If there are any introductions you can make in your area, no matter how big or small, please introduce me via email or phone. Contact NEHPBA with any questions. Like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date!
Image: Sen Markey Green New Deal Town Hall
20 December 2019
What products qualify?
9 December 2019
Northeast HPBA is offering NFI courses and exams in January, 2020 in New Hampshire. Gas, Core and Hearth Design Specialists classes and exams will be offered on January 21 and 22 at Northeast Distribution in Exeter, NH for members and non-members. Sign up and find more information at nficertified.org!
21 November 2019
Fossil fuels are out following the second night of Brookline’s special Town Meeting.
Town Meeting members passed Article 21, which will prohibit the use of fossil fuel infrastructure in new construction and significant renovations in town.
“This warrant article is not the whole answer, but it represents a start” in reaching Brookline’s stated 2050 carbon neutral goal, said Town Meeting member Cornelia van der Ziel.
“When you’re in a hole, the first thing is to stop digging,” State Rep. Tommy Vitolo said; this warrant article takes away the shovel, he added.
The bylaw passed overwhelmingly, with 210 votes in favor.
“This is a historic day for the community of Brookline and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” TMM, architect and article co-sponsor Lisa Cunningham said in a Mothers Out Front press release following the vote.
She added, “I hope this demonstrates to parents and citizens across the country that they also have the power to move their communities to a clean energy future.”
The bylaw does include some exemptions, allowing fossil fuel infrastructure needed for backup generators, restaurant kitchens and medical offices, among other uses.
The action was urgently needed, co-petitioner and architect Kathleen Scanlon said in the same Mothers Out Front press release.
“We cannot install new gas infrastructure that will last 30 years, past the time that we have committed to achieving zero emissions,” Scanlon said. “This decision will move us away from new oil and gas infrastructure when it’s convenient and possible to do so. It’s a step in the right direction for Brookline and for our climate.”
Town Meeting picks up again on Thursday, Nov. 21.
13 November 2019
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