“It’s clear that the bulk of Californians want their natural gas appliances.”
The Sierra Club reported last week that more than 50 cities across the state are considering or have passed policies that will over time, eliminate the use of natural gas and support new construction that is only all-electric. Senate Bill 1477, signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2018, aims to have near-zero emission homes with an all-electric model.
“Motivated by the climate crisis, worsening air pollution, escalating gas rates and risks from gas, a new cohort of local government leaders is emerging in California,” wrote Matt Gough for the Sierra Club.
The majority of the ordinances for cities to go all-electric have taken place within the past year. Some cities are using terms such as “green building” under the Obama 2013 Climate Action Plan.
The push to go all-electric is happening at the same time utility companies like PG&E and SDG&E are shutting off the electrical power and creating blackouts when the threat of high winds and wildfires arise. The cities passing the ordinances are giving the legal notice for public comment. However, citizens seem disengaged, and only a few are actually making the decisions to wean cities off of natural gas.
Is the public in agreement, or are the people not paying attention?
Carlsbad’s Climate Action Plan
The city of Carlsbad passed a green building ordinance out of the city’s Climate Action Plan and passed the first electrification reach code in March 2019. This means that heat pump water heaters or solar thermal water heating will be in new low-rise (below four stories) residential construction.
Their goal is to decarbonize the building sector. Carlsbad plans to phase out the use of gas over time.
For more information about Carlsbad’s ordinance you can read it here: Carlsbad City Ordinance.
Windsor’s City Planning
In September 2019, the city of Windsor voted 4-0 to adopt a reach code mandating all-electric new construction for all new low-rise residential buildings. This includes single-family homes, multi-family below four stories, and detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs). Attached ADUs are exempt. More information on the electrification requirement can be found here. The meeting according to Kim Jordan, from the Windsor Planning Department, “Was attended by approximately 15 people, comprised of a mix of developers, design professionals, and community members. The meeting included opportunity for questions, comments and discussion.”
Although the city of Windsor sent out multiple announcements allowing for public comment, only a small segment of the community gave feedback.
There is a Huge Disconnect on the No-Gas Issue
When The California Building Industry conducted a natural gas survey of 3,000 Californians, the results were not in sync with the cities pushing to go all-electric. In a report explaining the survey, the CBI wrote, “When purchasing a home, only one-in-ten would choose solely electrical appliances, whereas, half want both natural gas and electrical appliances. One-quarter don’t have a preference. It’s clear that the bulk of Californians want their natural gas appliances.”
Palo Alto’s All-electric Construction
On November 4, Palo Alto’s city council voted unanimously for all-electric construction. Council also directed city staff to begin working on multiple ordinances prohibiting natural gas infrastructure in new buildings that should take effect in 2020. The Council also directed city staff to work on exploring scalable, cost-effective rebates for retrofitting existing homes.
Mountain View: No exceptions For Gas
The hometown of Google and other tech giants, Mountain View also voted unanimously to require electrification for new residential and commercial buildings. Mountain View’s ordinance is aggressive; there are no exemptions for gas stoves, fireplaces, or fire pits in residential buildings, though there is a provision that makes it possible for restaurants to request a waiver. The city council is also looking at writing an ordinance to ban wood fireplaces as an additional health and safety measure. Read more about Mountain View’s reach code here.
The reach codes will prevent builders from running natural gas lines to new homes and apartments, with the ultimate goal of creating fewer legacy gas hookups as the nation shifts to carbon-neutral energy sources.
Those in favor of the all electric push feel it is a win for climate change. However, these ordinances are a threat to the Gas Companies’ mere existence and will raise energy prices for everyone.
According to Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions, “Switching from gas to other types of appliances would cost the average California homeowner over $7,200 in up front expenses. The ongoing costs would hurt homeowners and renters alike-increases energy costs by $388 each year.”
Citizens in 17 cities across San Gabriel Valley are taking action and having their voices heard against the push for all-electric energy. Members of the public have chosen to support policies that will allow consumers a choice and maintain control of their energy options. The city of Duarte was the first to oppose SB 1477.
The Southern California Gas Company also is working on replacing its natural gas supply with renewable gas.
Executive Director of Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions, John Switalski, reported that banning natural and renewable gas would affect 90-percent of people who own homes, rent, or own businesses. According to Switalski, it important that the state of California keeps clean energy that is affordable for everyone and maintain reliable service
The CBI reported, “Most voters would be very upset if elected officials passed a law that made the purchase of natural gas appliances illegal. Only 12% would be pleased with that.“
The CBI survey shows 78% polled they disagree California should get rid of natural gas and move to 100% renewable electricity even if it means families and restaurants could no longer use natural gas for cooking. And, 82% don’t like the idea if it means consumers’ monthly energy bills would triple.