The City of Tallahassee’s gas appliance rebate program has been a continuing source of consternation among the clean energy community. I am happy to report that progress has been made – although we still have a way to go.
Effective October 1, 2023, the city no longer will be offering rebates toward the purchase price of gas lighting, fire logs, barbeque grills, or pool and spa heaters. Rebates remain available for gas ranges and ovens, clothes dryers, water heaters, and furnaces.
The requirement to install a gas water heater, if a gas hookup is available, to qualify for the city’s ENERGY STAR Certified New Home and Renovation Rebate, has also been discontinued. The rebate package, which provides up to $2,000 for qualifying residences, was established to encourage the construction of energy efficient homes. To prohibit the installation of more efficient electric heat pumps was incompatible with that goal to say the least.
In the city’s defense, the gas rebates were established in the mid-1980s to grow the gas utility and ensure its fiscal stability. Further, beginning around 2007, transferring energy usage to natural gas was seen as a way to reduce electrical energy demand. It was sold on the premise that the use of gas appliances would lower your utility bill. However, this strategy is being challenged given recent technological advances that have made electrical appliances such as electric heat pump water heaters and HVAC systems more energy efficient and cheaper to install and operate than gas water heaters and furnaces. Since 2008 the city utility has spent over $11 million on gas rebates.
Also weighing in is the push to reduce fossil fuel generated energy to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. Proudly, our city has risen to that challenge by committing to 100% renewable energy by 2050. The city’s continued support for gas appliance rebates is glaringly at odds with that commitment.
For example, while the city will provide a rebate for a gas water heater or furnace replacing a gas water heater or furnace it will not provide a rebate for a heat pump water heater or HVAC system replacing a natural gas water heater or furnace even though heat pump water heaters and furnaces are now more energy efficient and lower in carbon emissions.
Among the other rebates awaiting dismantlement, is the city’s prohibition against providing a rebate for heat pump water heaters in multifamily residential units if natural gas is available. Discouraging landlords from opting to provide a more energy efficient and cost-effective alternative for their tenants is hard to fathom.
While we thank the city for recalling these five rebates, to continue to promote gas appliances when more efficient and cleaner alternatives are available is hard to reconcile in a rapidly warming world. Instead, as proposed by the city’s new Clean Energy Plan, this tool should be used to encourage energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions.
Meta Calder is a retired state employee and homeowner who has been a Tallahassee resident for over 45 years.
Patrick Love is a retired physicist who maintains a small consulting business in Tallahassee.
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