At a time when affordable housing is becoming more scarce, California's push toward electrification to mitigate climate change impacts could cost homeowners billions of dollars in higher energy costs, according to two studies released Monday by major building and community organizations in the nation's most populous state.
The reports warn that it would be costly and counter to homeowner preferences to eliminate natural gas for household heating, cooking and clothes drying.
A building industry-funded Navigant Consulting Group report found that in homes with natural gas appliances, swapping those appliances for all electric alternatives would cost the average household in Southern California more than $7,200 to upgrade wiring and electrical panels, and to purchase new appliances. This, along with higher electricity bills, could increase energy costs by up to $877 per household each year. Across Southern California’s 7 million single-family homes, the total cost increase is $4.3-6.1 billion per year.
In addition, a recent survey conducted by Competitive Edge for the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) found that when purchasing a home, "only one in ten consumers choose solely electrical appliances and fully two-thirds of them oppose eliminating the use of natural gas in California." The survey polled 3,000 consumers.
In California, recent and proposed updates to residential energy efficiency standards mandated by the California Energy Commission (CEC) also could increase the cost of housing by as much as $20,000.
CBIA CEO Dan Dunmoyer said that for decades home builders have worked to build efficient, affordable housing. He said the timing is not good for moving to a more costly residential energy scheme.
In the CBIA consumer preference survey, two-thirds of the respondents opposed eliminating the use of gas in residences. The major reasons consumers cited for keeping gas are cost concerns. For example, 82% said they oppose eliminating natural gas if it would significantly increase monthly utility bills.
According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), gas consumption in homes and small businesses contributed only about 7% of the state's greenhouse gas emissions; electrification would only lower emissions by 2%.