State legislation that would force a transition from fossil fuels and cap energy costs could save the poorest New Yorkers an average of $75 per month, advocates said as they announced a new tool that lets residents calculate how much they could save on utility bills on Thursday.
The NY Heat Act under consideration in Albany would limit utility bills to 6% of total wages for low-to-middle-income households and incentivize the state’s utility regulator to downsize and in some cases decommission gas plants and pipelines.
As part of their push to get the legislation passed, climate policy nonprofits Spring Street Climate Fund and Win Climate created a NY Heat Act calculator that allows residents to click on their districts, input their income, average monthly bills and calculate how much they could save if it became law.
The bill has majority support in the state Senate, where it passed in June by a vote of 39-23, but died in the Assembly. Gov. Kathy Hochul included elements of the bill in her most recent budget that would discontinue the expansion of utility infrastructure that usually results in higher utility bills.
“It means food on the table for two or three meals in a week,” said state Assemblymember Yudelka Tapia, who represents parts of the Bronx. “It’s not only an economic issue, it’s also an environmental issue that many of our communities are not educated enough to understand because they’re thinking in the economic part only.”
The median annual income in Tapia’s 86th Assembly District is just under half of the citywide average of $81,386. She said 40% of households in her district are energy-burdened, meaning that they pay more than 6% of their total earnings on utility bills, according to the state.
A typical energy bill in Tapia’s district is $197. The advocates’ calculator shows that residents in the area would save around $112 if the Heat Act were passed.
“Everybody’s feeling the cost-of-living crisis,” said Shay O’Reilly, campaign manager at Spring Street Climate Fund. “This is a way of telling that story and helping New Yorkers understand that information.”
National Grid did not respond to an inquiry. The gas utility giant has said the NY Heat Act is “premature” because the state is in the midst of determining how to balance its zero-emissions goals with utility reliability.
The calculator site also features a map showing average household savings under the NY Heat Act, and the percentage of residents who qualify as “burdened” by utility bills.
“The data is clear. If implemented, NY Heat would make a significant dent on New York State’s energy affordability crisis,” said Juan-Pablo Velez, executive director of Win Climate. “Over a third of Bronx residents are energy burdened, and their bills would be cut in half, on average.”