Equitable Electrification: Could City and State Policies Aggravate Energy Insecurity?
Progressive cities and states have begun enacting policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, one of the leading sources of such emissions in the United States. The same jurisdictions have also generally committed to pursuing decarbonization equitably, without exacerbating the disadvantages faced by historically marginalized communities. Electrification is currently a favored policy for decarbonizing buildings. This Article examines the potential for building electrification to impact tenant energy costs through a case study of New York City. It focuses on whether there are gaps in current protections for low- and moderate-income tenants, and reveals several loopholes that leave tenants of unregulated housing in particular vulnerable to cost increases. At the same time, a survey of industry stakeholders suggests few owners of multifamily buildings are actually likely to electrify their properties under the current policy framework. These findings suggest that creative reforms are needed both to catalyze electrification of New York City’s building stock and to protect its most vulnerable households from cost increases when it occurs.