A Leading US Utility Stealthily Fights the Electrification of Heating Systems

Eversource Energy markets itself as a company that strives for carbon neutrality and invests in offshore wind power. But at a recent industry presentation, utility officials outlined a strategy to continue using natural gas for years to come.

Eversource Energy markets itself as a company that strives for carbon neutrality and invests in offshore wind power. But at a recent industry presentation, utility officials outlined a strategy to continue using natural gas for years to come.

Eversource Energy, New England’s largest utility, markets itself as a company that strives for carbon neutrality and invests in offshore wind power. But at a recent industry presentation, Eversource officials outlined a strategy to continue using natural gas for years to come and to fight growing efforts to decarbonize the heating of buildings, according to E & E News.

E & E News obtained a slide presentation by an Eversource executive from an industry conference in mid-March. The presentation warned that natural gas is “in for [the] fight of its life” and called for a lobbying campaign in which “everyone needs to contact legislators in favor of NG [natural gas].” Another slide asked how the natural gas industry could “take advantage of power outage fear” to continue promoting the use of natural gas, E & E News reported.

Eversource is identified in the slide presentation as the co-leader of the Consortium to Combat Electrification, which is affiliated with the Energy Solutions Center, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group. According to the presentation, 14 other utilities are involved in the effort to “create effective, customizable marketing materials to fight the electrification/anti-natural gas movement.”

Initiatives to restrict or ban the use of natural gas in new construction — to be replaced by renewably generated electricity, ground-source heat pumps, or other technologies — are gaining ground across the U.S.

E & E News said that Eversource officials “sought to distance themselves from the messages conveyed in the presentation, saying they don’t reflect the views of the utility’s leadership.” But electrification of heating systems poses a financial threat to Eversource, which last year paid $1.1 billion to acquire the Massachusetts-based assets of Columbia Gas.

“None of these companies want to write their own obituary,” Deborah Gordon — a former petroleum engineer who now serves as a senior principal at RMI, a think tank that favors electrification — told E & News. “If you’re going to bend this curve, and we bend it quickly, there are going to be casualties. Some will transform, some will consolidate, some will go away.”