California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) outgoing chairman Michael Picker has pushed to eliminate natural gas appliances as part of Democrats’ initiative to reduce carbon emissions. This could impoverish already struggling Californians by raising the cost of housing by thousands of dollars.
California Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in 2018 that would mandate that all of the state’s electricity will come from “clean power” sources and there will be 100 percent zero-carbon electricity by 2045.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), led by chairman Picker, launched in January a rulemaking process that would decarbonize buildings.
“Modeling tells us that 100 percent renewable electricity alone isn’t enough to help us meet our 2030 greenhouse gas reduction goals; we also need to electrify our homes and buildings to reduce the use of fossil fuels in California,” Picker said in January.
Picker also said that “25 percent of total emissions in California are from homes and buildings, and we must make headway on reducing these emissions to meet the state’s overall aggressive climate goals.”
Rachel Golden, a senior representative with the Sierra Club, said that CPUC’s new rulemaking “is an important historical moment” similar to the state’s subsidies for rooftop solar panels and electric vehicles.
Along with helping to implement Brown’s climate agenda, the rule would also replace gas appliances with high-efficiency appliances.
In March, during a Wildfire Technology Innovation Summit, Picker claimed that the job of CPUC is to “kill innovation.”
One study conducted by Navigant Consulting found that replacing natural gas appliances with all-electric appliances would cost the average southern California household more than $7,200 to upgrade wiring and electrical panels and purchase new appliances. This, along with higher electricity bills, would increase energy costs up to $877 per household every year.
Across southern California’s roughly seven million single-family homes, the total cost would increase from $4.3 to $6.1 billion per year.
A recent poll conducted by the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) found that when purchasing a home, only ten percent would choose solely electrical appliances. Two-thirds of voters also oppose eliminating natural gas in California.
The CBIA survey also found that voters overwhelmingly prefer natural gas stoves, water heaters, and furnaces compared to electric versions because they are less expensive and cheaper to operate. Two-thirds of voters also oppose eliminating the use of natural gas, and 82 percent oppose getting rid of natural gas if consumers’ energy bills would dramatically increase.
The poll also found that, in terms of monthly budgeting, the electric bill is California voters’ top concern, beating the cable and Internet bill by more than a two-to-one margin.
Roughly 60 percent of voters said that they remain very or extremely concerned about higher housing cost in California.
The CBIA poll also found that the top reasons that voters oppose the elimination of natural gas is due to the concern over cost as well as the belief that California diverse energy choices.
Recent studies call into question the need for cutting natural gas emissions. According to the California Air Resources Board, natural gas consumption in residential and commercial buildings in California accounts for roughly seven percent of greenhouse gas emissions across the state.
Further, the proposed updates to residential energy efficiency standards, mandated by the California Energy Commission (CEC), could increase the cost of housing by as much as $20,000, which could make it even harder for struggling Californians to purchase a home.
Dan Dunmoyer, the president and chief executive of the CBIA, said that considering that California faces a housing crisis, the state should push for lower housing costs.
“The cost of housing has been skyrocketing throughout California, and many families are struggling with housing affordability. For decades, California homebuilders have worked to construct the most efficient and affordable homes,” said Donmoyer.
“At a time when California is experiencing the worst affordable housing crisis in the history of our state, we need to make housing less expensive rather than tacking on new costs that make homeownership even further out of reach for most families,” he added.
Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, California, said, “These recent studies underscore the commitment needed to understand all underlying factors that can contribute to financial instability, potentially forcing struggling families deeper into poverty and homelessness.”