Photo: Bosch

In its effort to significantly reduce carbon emissions, the state of California is working to encourage electrification of homes and vehicles among its residents. While transportation and power generation are the most well-known sources of GHGs, in California, buildings (and the gas they use) account for a quarter of all emissions. As the LA Times reported, the state’s “electrification plan could prompt a confrontation between the country’s biggest gas distribution utility, Southern California Gas Co., and its second-biggest electric utility, Southern California Edison. The monopoly powerhouses are already promoting competing visions for the Golden State, with Edison pushing a future powered by electricity and SoCalGas touting the climate benefits of so-called renewable gas. For SoCalGas, electrification is an existential threat. For Edison, it’s an opportunity.

SoCal Gas argues that it would be too costly for homeowners to switch their appliances and systems to electric and therefore “renewable gas” is the greener option, yet other energy experts refute that argument:

  • Some believe the gas company may be dramatically overestimating the available supply of renewable gas and has failed to fully account for the planet-warming effect of methane leaking from its pipelines.
  • Timothy O’Connor, an energy expert at the Environmental Defense Fund said that electricity makes much more sense than gas as a long-term solution — not just because of the climate change benefits but also because electric appliances don’t generate indoor air pollution and called electrification an opportunity to make buildings healthier.

It’s also worth noting that leaks of gas pipelines from companies like Southern California Gas can release staggeringly high levels of greenhouse gases–like 2015’s Aliso Canyon leak that was the largest greenhouse gas leak in US History. Despite this, the gas industry isn’t giving up the fight easily and as the LA Times also noted, SoCal Gas “helped organize Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions, an advocacy group that launched in February and asserts on its website that “powerful organizations … are working to take away your right to choose affordable natural and renewable gas.”” At the end of the day, natural gas is not a renewable resource.

Why This Matters: Renewable energy advocates contend that the best way to fight climate change is to electrify everything. This is especially doable in California where more than half of the state’s power came from climate-friendly sources such as solar and wind in 2017 with the goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2045. Transitioning to electrification will be a gradual process and require an adjustment for some but if the thought of giving up your gas stove sounds preposterous, just know that more and more professional chefs are dumping gas for induction ranges–including celebrity chef Curtis Stone.

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