New Study Advises Policymakers to Consider Renewable Natural Gas for Low-Carbon Buildings Strategy

Thursday, August 02, 2018

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Greater Irvine Chamber Leaders Circle member Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has joined businesses, affordable housing advocates, scholars, and local government leaders to announce the results of a new study it commissioned by Navigant Consulting, Inc. that advises policymakers to consider renewable natural gas for California’s low carbon building strategy as a pathway for California to achieve its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals. The analysis forecasts that replacing just 16 percent of the traditional natural gas supply with renewable gas (RNG) captured from sources like dairies, wastewater treatment plants, and landfills, can achieve GHG reductions equivalent to converting 100 percent of buildings to electric only energy by 2030. By using a mix of both in and out of state resources, the renewable natural gas strategy is three times more cost effective in reducing GHGs than an electrification pathway.

SoCalGas is committed to developing renewable natural gas and renewable storage technologies to help California meet its climate goals. This year, SoCalGas is supporting Senate Bill 1440, Hueso (D-San Diego), that would result in five percent of natural gas delivered to residential customers being replaced with renewable natural gas. This is a meaningful step toward the five percent rate of renewable gas statewide which, according to SoCalGas, could achieve GHG reductions equivalent to 30 percent electrification of the building sector and without the burden of mandates that would require families to purchase new appliances or upgrade their homes. 

“SoCalGas customers prefer natural gas to heat their homes and to cook their food by a margin of five to one over electricity because it is the most affordable form of energy,” said Sharon Tomkins, SoCalGas vice president for customer solutions and strategy. “This study is a game changer – it shows that California can achieve meaningful greenhouse gas reductions without costly mandates that force people to upgrade their electrical panels and purchase new appliances and that could drive California deeper into an affordable housing crisis.”

Today, 90 percent of homes in Southern California use natural gas for space and water heating or cooking. Natural gas emissions from residential buildings account for only about five percent of greenhouse gas emissions according to the California Air Resources Board, a number that can be further reduced by use of renewable natural gas. 

In April 2018, the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) announced the results of two other studies that reveal the high cost of electrifying California homes and a strong preference among voters for more affordable natural gas appliances. The first CBIA study 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 purchase new appliances. This, along with higher electricity bills, could increase energy costs up to $877 per household each year. Across Southern California’s seven million single-family homes, the total cost increase is $4.3 to $6.1 billion per year. Moreover, recent and proposed updates to residential energy efficiency standards, mandated by the California Energy Commission could increase the cost of housing by as much as $20,000, according to CBIA.

A separate CBIA poll found that when purchasing a house, only one-in-ten voters would choose a home with only electrical appliances and two-thirds of those surveyed oppose eliminating the use of natural gas in California. 

“California needs a balanced strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; one that considers the impact on families and businesses,” said Bryan Starr, president and CEO, Greater Irvine Chamber. “Businesses want to do their part for the environment, but affordability and choice are important factors. Natural gas is an affordable, reliable, and clean renewable energy choice for Californians.”

Increasing the amount of renewable natural gas, as the state has done with electricity, is already part of state climate legislation and regulation. Senate Bill 1383 requires 40 percent methane capture from California’s waste streams -- from sewage treatment, and landfills, and agriculture, and dairies.  Estimates by researchers at the University of California, Davis suggest more than 20 percent of California’s current residential natural gas use can be provided by renewable gas made from the state’s existing organic waste.

For more information on renewable natural gas, click here.

Category: Partner News