TRANSITION FROM RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL USE OF NATURAL GAS

In order to meet Nevada’s long-term goal of zero or near-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, transitioning away from natural gas is necessary. While Nevada’s electricity sector transitions from fossil fuels to zero-emissions renewables, the state must also transition from fossil-fuel combustion in homes and commercial buildings in the form of burning gas for cooking, hot water, and space heating.

Before eliminating natural gas as a fuel source entirely, consumer choice, especially in existing structures, as well as affordability and equity, should be carefully considered. Other steps include the need to adopt all electric appliance standards and green construction codes. Part of the transition also includes evaluating the construction of gas pipelines for new construction in both residential and commercial buildings to assist in the shift to renewable energy.

A potential first step in a phased transition from gas would be to allow consumers the choice between gas and electric on existing buildings but require all-electric in new construction. This would preclude establishing new pipelines, thus avoiding future stranded assets. New pipelines would also lock in emissions for years, weakening Nevada’s ability to meet emissions-reduction goals according to Pathways and Policies to Achieve Nevada’s Climate Goals.

GREENHOUSE GAS IMPLICATIONS

Nevada’s GHG emissions from the residential and commercial sectors were 4.6 MMTCO2e in 2016 and accounted for 10% of the state’s total inventory. Emissions are projected to increase to 4.7 MMTCO2e by 2039 under current policies. While it is clear that shifting toward building electrification could reduce GHG emissions, the trajectory of reductions would depend on the phasing of a transition strategy. 

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CLIMATE JUSTICE

Limiting the need for new gas lines and adopting all-electric standards would reduce negative health impacts and energy cost burden on the low- to moderate-income communities if done in a manner that minimizes appliance conversion and adoption costs borne by consumers and owners. Prioritizing equity and affordability to the most-vulnerable families as well as ensuring that the current workforce is not displaced will have the most positive impact. 

This topic proved to be of significant concern during the Green Building listening session. Several Nevadans expressed the need for a choice when it comes to natural gas or electric in new construction and retrofits of residences. Many others, particularly in rural communities with limited access to the grid, and those with commercial kitchens, indicated that access to gas was necessary.

However, research shows that NO2 and CO released by burning  gas ovens can compromise indoor air quality and the health of families and those working in commercial kitchens (e.g. Zhu et al., 2020). Similar to outdoor air pollution, children are particularly vulnerable and those that live in homes with gas stoves are 42% more likely to have asthma than children who live in a home with induction cooktops and electric ovens (RMI 2020). 

Further research and engagement with communities across Nevada is needed to properly analyze and assess the climate justice issues. There is also a need to engage in discussions about the risks of indoor gas use.

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INTEGRATED ECONOMIC ASSESSMENT

Designing, facilitating, and implementing a phased transition from gas in the residential and commercial sectors will require careful planning and engagement. The only known communities that have enacted building electrification policies are the City of Berkeley, California, and more recently the City of San Francisco. Although it is unclear what investments would be needed to support a transition toward building electrification transitions, additional investments to support administrative functions would likely be necessary. 

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IMPLEMENTATION FEASIBILITY

The Governor’s Office of Energy (GOE) director likely has the authority to evaluate a freeze or limitation on installation of gas lines to newly constructed homes and businesses. Ultimately, analysis, in coordination with the PUCN, is needed to develop the most prudent course of action for a long-term transition from domestic and commercial use of gas. Legislative authority may be needed to assist with this transition.

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