Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) is helping local governments in their efforts to enact resolutions condemning efforts to ban natural gas use in new buildings and homes in the state.
Because Gov. Gavin Newsom has advocated lower energy costs as climate change laws are enacted, all solutions must be “on the table that can help meet California’s clean energy goals, including renewable natural gas and hydrogen,” said SoCalGas Vice President Sharon Tomkins, who oversees strategy and engagement.
In July, Berkeley, in Northern California, became the first city in the country to pass an ordinance prohibiting gas infrastructure in all new construction. San Jose, about 45 miles away, recently became the largest city in the country to ban the use of natural gas in most new buildings.
California’s climate protection targets are among the most aggressive in the nation. Overall, nine cities in the state have either banned the use of gas in new buildings or adopted electrification building codes that go beyond statewide requirements. More than 50 cities and counties across the state are also considering electrification policies that would discourage the use of fossil fuels, according to the Sierra Club.
SoCalGas, the nation's largest gas distribution utility, said 90% of homes in Southern California use natural gas for space and water heating or cooking. "Families in Southern California prefer natural gas by a margin of 4- to-1 for space and water heating and cooking because it is less expensive than electricity," said spokesperson Christine Detz.
A 2018 study by the California Building Industry Association found that replacing gas appliances in California homes with electric models could increase household energy costs by more than $850. Another recent study found that replacing 20% of the gas used today with renewable natural gas (RNG) could reduce emissions equal to electrifying every building in the state at half the cost. SoCalGas has committed to replace 20% of the gas it purchases with RNG by 2030.
“People are going to want to continue to use natural gas, and RNG allows folks to keep their gas but have more of it come from renewable sources,” said Kings County’s Joe Neves, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “This clean energy solution works with people’s preferences rather than against them. We should have that right to decide.”
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Tye of Diamond Bar, a Los Angeles suburb, questioned why state regulators would push for a single energy source. “Policymakers should be advocating for and focused on a diverse portfolio of clean energy sources like solar, wind and renewable natural gas.”
Rosemead Mayor Maggie Clark said, “Many of my constituents have no idea the state has proposed moving toward eliminating the use of natural gas in every California building, including homes.”