Elimination of Natural Gas Could Cost Consumers
November 28, 2019
By Jon Switalski
Before Culver City rushes headlong into following the City of Berkeley and eliminating natural gas hookups from residential buildings, it should carefully consider the consequences.
In particular, for a city so concerned with social justice and equity issues, the economic impact of mandated electrification on its most vulnerable community members could be severe.
For consumers, it would almost certainly mean an increase in their utility costs. A study by the consultant firm Navigant underwritten by the California Building Industry Association showed that switching to all-electric appliances would cost California consumers on average more than $7,200 and increase energy costs by up to $388 per year.
That’s a steep price to pay when you consider that all these sacrifices are being demanded from one of the lower-polluting sectors in California. According to the California Air Resources Board, residential buildings in California account for about 6% of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions today. Electrification of the residential sector would only decrease total GHG emissions by about two percent.
Moreover, there is limited evidence whether electrification is truly as clean as proponents make it out to be.
According to Stanford University professor Anthony R. Kovscek, who recently published an op-ed looking at the environmental ramifications of electrification.
Eliminating the use of natural gas would mostly have symbolic impact, he argued. “We need to question whether banning new natural gas hookups actually reduces carbon emissions as natural gas will continue to be used,” Kovscek wrote.
As with a financial portfolio, Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions believes there is a need to diversify. In the face of wild-fires and a vulnerable electric grid, policy makers should prioritize energy resiliency above all else.
There is a role for solar, wind, and electricity. And yes, there is a role that natural gas, and increasingly renewable gas, plays in California’s energy future. The availability of natural and renewable gas provides Californians with energy affordability, choice, and reliability for our economic well-being and quality of life.
Jon Switalski is executive director of Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions, a coalition of natural and renewable gas users.