The New Jersey Senate Community and Urban Affairs signed off on a bill to bar any state agency from mandating electric heating or water heating systems in homes and businesses.

While the bipartisan S-4133 prohibits a mandate, it does not bar anyone from using electric heat or water heating systems. It also allows state agencies to offer incentives to install an electric heat or electric water heater.

“State agencies have no business dictating how residents heat their homes or live their lives,” state Sen. Steve Oroho, R-Sussex, said in a statement. “In some cases, the convenience of electricity may make sense, but homeowners and businesses should be able to make their own choices without government forcing them to do it.

“The high cost of living in New Jersey, boosted by oppressive tax rates, would be increased significantly by the electric mandate,” Oroho added. “Three of every four homes in the state could be faced with thousands of dollars in expenses to convert to electric heat, with estimates for a full-house conversion reaching or exceeding $20,000.”

Pushing homes and businesses to use electric heat is part of the state’s Energy Master Plan (EMP), which Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled in January 2020. The governor said he wants to put the state on a track to use 100% clean energy by 2050.

However, since its unveiling, groups have questioned how much it would cost to implement.

“With each New Jersey household with gas heat potentially facing tens of thousands of dollars in costs to retrofit their homes for electric heat pumps, as the EMP urges, it’s completely appropriate that residents maintain this freedom of choice,” New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) Vice President of Government Affairs Ray Cantor said in a statement.

“It is also imperative that we allow for new technologies to develop that may be more cost effective and environmentally friendly,” Cantor added. “We should not lock ourselves into an ‘electrify everything’ mentality. In fact, studies have shown that we would actually increase our carbon emissions if we do away with natural gas heat and force everyone to use dirtier fuels from the PJM grid.”

The bill’s passage drew praise from the Fuel Merchants Association.

“While we support clean energy goals, Governor Murphy’s Energy Master Plan and his total electrification mandate comes at too great a cost for New Jersey families,” Eric DeGesero, the association’s executive vice president, said in a statement. “Our studies have shown the costs to be $20,000 (or more) for homeowners to convert their residences to electric heat, and the Murphy Administration has been unable to refute that or provide their own realistic cost estimates.”