Richard Ellenbogen frequently copies me on emails that address various issues associated with New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act). I asked his permission to present his analysis describing the incorrect and hidden costs associated with installing induction ranges for residential cooking.
I have published other articles by Ellenbogen because he truly cares about the environment and the environmental performance record of his business shows that he is walking the walk. Ellenbogen is the President of Allied Converters that manufactures food packaging. His facility is about 55,000 square feet and does a lot of manufacturing with heat to seal the bags, all electrically driven. The facility has solar panels and uses co-generation. He explains:
In 2008, the average energy cost per square foot for a commercial facility in Westchester was $1.80. We were at 33% of that 12 years later and even with the increases, we are at 62% of that 14 years later. That has been done while having a carbon footprint 30% – 40% lower than the utility system. The $1.80 per foot also included commercial office space and our operation is far more energy intensive than an office. We use energy extremely efficiently and as a result, our bills are much lower than everyone else.
The impetus for his analysis was an article was in the NY Times entitled How to Buy the Best Induction Cooktop. Richard’s evaluation addresses the costs in detail. The following is his text.
Nowhere does it mention the hidden costs of conversion and with one exception, the cooktops all over $1000 before tax. Also, those are just cooktops with no oven. Complete cooktops and ovens can cost $2500 or more. You have to click on one of the links in the article to find information about the conversion costs and the link does not go into great detail about those costs. It just says that you will have to call an electrician.
The apartment building where my daughter lives in New York City was built in 2003, so it is a new building by City standards. As a reference, I just replaced the gas stove in her apartment last week. It cost $1150 including tax, delivery, and installation. It also included an oven. A gas detector is available from Amazon for about $25 for anyone concerned about methane emissions.
Below are two photos of her breaker panel. An induction range needs a 2 pole 50 amp circuit breaker. As you can see from the photos, the capacity of the panel is 125 amps but it is already fully populated with 2 air conditioners and other appliances on the panel. While breakers could be rearranged to fit a breaker for the induction range, the panel would be operating at or above its capacity. There is no extra capacity on the panel to support the induction range. Installation would require new, higher capacity lines from the basement of the building plus a new breaker panel with a capacity of about 200 amps.
That also doesn’t explain where the manpower will come from to install all of these cook tops/induction ranges when there is a shortage of electricians.
You can add about $2000 for the new breaker panel and the new circuit for the stove, plus painting and patching to fix the holes that the electrician will leave behind. You can also add $300 – $400 for new pots that will work with your range. Running a new service from the basement to support the larger panel would add an additional $2000 – $4000 per apartment that would have to be covered by the building management and would end up reflected in higher common charges. This is all to replace a device that is used about 2 hours per day. In older buildings, the costs would likely be higher. It doesn’t take long to reach $8000 in costs, or about eight times what just replacing the gas range would cost using far less labor.
At least 60% of the state lives in even older housing stock that would have similar issues. Con Ed is having difficulty just supporting air conditioning in many older buildings because their electrical services date to the 1940’s – 1950’s or earlier and the electrical services weren’t sized for that, let alone adding hundreds of induction ranges to these buildings.
There are so many other issues of a far larger magnitude that need to be dealt with prior to incurring the expenses of building electrification that will yield relatively little, if any, improvement in GHG emissions.
However, the media doesn’t want to delve deeply into the downsides for fear of angering their readers. It’s far easier to paint a rosy picture of induction ranges saving the world and keeping Greenland from melting.
And for those that say that gas stoves cause childhood asthma, there is a slide from my upcoming PowerPoint copied below.
Old gas stoves should be replaced, but we don’t need to spend an extra $72 billion doing it.
This is another very good evaluation by Ellenbogen. His analysis addresses a topic that I did not evaluate but it reinforces my disappointment that the Scoping Plan did not offer adequate documentation to verify their prediction. Every check on the Integration Analysis numbers that form the basis of the Scoping Plan shows that problems. I found no suggestion that the wiring issues raised by Ellenbogen have been included in the Scoping Plan. Comparison of their unit costs of cooking equipment with what is on the market today shows huge differences. The exclusion of ovens from the cooking costs is biases the estimates low.
I did have one concern about the analysis and after discussion with him there is another overlooked issue. I checked the Integration Analysis input assumptions spreadsheet to check Ellenbogen’s estimate of total costs using the data in the following table.
I multiplied the number of cooking appliances by the documented unit costs and found that the cost to convert all fossil-fired cooking appliances to induction stoves using the 2023 unit cost is $1.9 billion and increases to $3.2 billion if electric resistance stoves have to be converted too. The Integration Analysis unit costs are bogus because they don’t include ovens and are laughably low compared to today’s prices. Assuming more realistic $2500 for a induction cooktop and oven, $735 for electric resistance, and $1,175 for natural gas range and oven, the cost difference to replace the gas and LPG equipment with the induction alternative is $6.1 billion and increases to $12 billion if the electric resistance stoves have to be converted too. That does not address the hidden cost of the electric service upgrades. Ellenbogen estimates that cost is around $8,000. I think that is high overall so I assumed that all the natural gas and LPG homes would have to get upgraded electric service for the cooking equipment at $4,000. That kicks the total conversion costs to $23.8 billion. If the electric resistance stoves have to get upgraded to more efficient induction equipment and no electric service upgrades are required that brings the total to $29.7 billion. That is less than his estimate but still a huge number compared to any estimate using the Integration Analysis.
Residential Cooking Stocks and Costs in Integration Analysis
IA-Tech-Supplement-Annex-1-Input-Assumptions Tabs Bldg_Res Stock and Bldg_Res Device Cost
I sent my version of this analysis to Ellenbogen for review and comment. I was particularly interested in his thoughts about my numbers. He responded that he had talked to his electrical contractor about the prices. The contractor confirmed that these cost prices are valid for Westchester County and Long Island but are low for New York City. Ellenbogen made the point to me that addressing the cost differential is necessary because New York City is 42% of the population of the state and Westchester and Long Island add another 23%. Our work shows that in order to credibly calculate the electric service upgrades necessary for induction cooktops the Integration Analysis should have determined what was necessary for the three categories of residential housing (single family, small multi-family, and large multi-family) and included regional variations in labor costs across the state.
Incredibly there is no sign that electric upgrade costs were included at all. I believe that the Scoping Plan residential cooking costs that incorporate the necessary electric service upgrades are short between $30 and $72 billion. That is a significant fraction of the alleged benefits of between $115 and $130 billion.