Massachusetts Gas Heating Bills Set To Double, Triple in Coming Years, Spurring ‘Retrofits of Regret’ From Homebuyers Stuck With Fossil Fuel Equipment

Posted March 12, 2024

Report warns that Massachusetts municipalities’ reliance on utility gas will cost homeowners thousands every year if lawmakers do not pass statewide healthy building standards today

BOSTON — As Massachusetts’s gas utilities have forecasted that customer costs are going to skyrocket in the coming decades, a new report from Groundwork Data commissioned by ZeroCarbonMA explores how buildings built today on gas will face heating bills that are slated to double by the early 2030s. These rising costs will force owners of the average single family home built today to pay at least $7,000 to swap out their gas equipment ahead of schedule, imposing a disruptive and avoidable ‘Retrofit of Regret’ on new home buyers.

“The era of cheap utility gas is coming to a close and will have profound implications for all gas customers,” said Michael Walsh, Ph.D., report author and Founding Partner, Groundwork Data. “Most building owners will ultimately need to undergo a disruptive retrofit of regret to escape increasing costs and align with climate goals. This can be avoided by ensuring new buildings go beyond gas with the latest clean energy technologies”

As highly efficient heat pumps continue to gain popularity in Massachusetts, a shrinking base of gas customers will see their annual gas bills rise even further as gas utilities continue to recuperate the cost of Massachusetts’s $34.4 billion gas pipeline replacement program. In contrast, even as Massachusetts invests in the electric system to anticipate greater demand from households upgrading to clean energy, electric rates are expected to rise no more than 10 to 20% in the coming decades. Even if the number of gas customers remains the same, gas rates are expected to double in the next 10 years alone according to the report. For the average single family home built today with gas in Massachusetts, annual gas heating bills will climb from an average of $1,200 today to $2,500 by 2040.

“Right now we are building with yesterday’s technology, and that spells bad news for everyone. We can construct buildings to the highest standards for health and resiliency in Massachusetts at cost parity today, while locking in huge savings for owners tomorrow,” said Lisa Cunningham, executive director of ZeroCarbonMA.

“Massachusetts is on the brink of the largest housing boom in a generation. Massachusetts’s leaders can and should pass legislation this session to ensure we protect residents from substandard fossil fuel buildings that will cost thousands more in the long run.”

Thanks to innovations in building practices and clean energy technologies, it costs the same or less to build new homes with the latest clean energy technologies in Massachusetts, before adding significant incentives and rebates. In a case study looking at a typical single-family home in Massachusetts, the report authors found that it costs $8,400 less to install a ductless air source heat pump compared to a gas furnace. Not only can builders avoid $10,000 up front simply by avoiding the cost of installing new gas pipelines, owners can save up to $16,000 per unit in Mass Save tax credits to install air source heat pumps, in addition to new IRA rebates.

“Massachusetts has already begun the essential transition from fossil fuels to clean electric appliances to meet its climate goals. This report drives home the timeliness of efficient, all-electric new construction to support more resilient and affordable communities for generations to come,” concluded Amar Shah, Manager – RMI Carbon Free Buildings team.

Read the report here.


About ZeroCarbonMA:
ZeroCarbonMA is committed to creating impactful climate legislation, working in collaboration with over 80 municipalities throughout Massachusetts to implement policies and expand our collective reach to the State and National level. Find out more at zerocarbonma.org.

About Groundwork Data:
Groundwork Data offers advisory, research, and technology services to accelerate a clean, equitable, and resilient energy transition. Find out more at groundworkdata.org.

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