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Advocates urge state action on prioritizing all-electric buildings

Rochester's skyline from Court Street
James Brown
Rochester's skyline from Court Street

A western New York advocacy group is pushing the state Senate and Assembly to prioritize electric buildings in their proposed budgets.

People United for Sustainable Housing, or PUSH, gathered outside an all-electric housing development under construction in Buffalo on Thursday.

Some skeptics wonder if New York’s electrical grid could handle the switch. But that’s a false narrative, according to Jessica Azulay, executive director of the Alliance for a Green Economy.

She maintains data from the agency that runs the New York grid shows it can.

"We have many, many years of really aggressive electrification before we need to build any new electric generating capacity,” Azulay said.

Katie Marshall — the co-founder of the Sunrise Movement in Rochester, a youth-led organization that fights for political action to protect the air, water and homes — said while some argue that the proposed switch to electric is too much and too fast, this is just the start of what is needed, and it’s almost too late.

"In order to reverse the impact of climate change and to preserve a livable future for people like me, we need to create a swift change in the way that we think about infrastructure,” Marshall said.

The advocates want passage of the All-Electric Building Act which would require new buildings to be all-electric, and the New York HEAT Act, which would ensure the state meets its greenhouse gas emissions mandate.

New York Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, is an outspoken critic of the proposed switch to electric homes and buildings.

He has said there would need to be an increased investment in the grid because it wouldn’t be able to handle the increased electric load.

Alex Crichton is host of All Things Considered on WXXI-FM 105.9/AM 1370. Alex delivers local news, weather and traffic reports beginning at 4 p.m. each weekday.