California is essentially a one-party state at this point so whatever Democrats want to do is what is going to happen. One of the things they are apparently thinking about doing now is getting rid of natural gas appliances in homes and businesses. The idea is to replace millions of gas stoves, gas dryers and gas heaters with replacements that run on electricity to help fight climate change. From the Los Angeles Times:
Among the sources of climate change pollution, cars and power plants get the most attention. But buildings are responsible for a quarter of California’s planet-warming emissions when gas and electricity use are taken into account, state data show.
In residential buildings, two-thirds of gas consumption is for space and water heating, and an additional 18% is for washing clothes and dishes. Just 7% of residential gas use is for cooking, with the rest going toward clothes drying, pool heating and hot tub warming.
For many clean energy advocates, the solution is obvious: Replace gas with electricity. They point out that the electricity supply is getting cleaner — California got more than half its power from climate-friendly sources such as solar and wind in 2017, and is aiming for 100% by 2045 — while gas continues to emit carbon dioxide when burned.
Not surprisingly, the gas utility is not a fan of this plan but the electric utility thinks it would be great. Of course, they will get paid to put up all the new transmission lines for all the additional electricity this will require.
This all sounds easy to do on paper but in reality, you’re talking about replacing several major appliances in millions of homes. For instance, I have a gas stove, a gas water heater, a gas home heater, and a gas dryer. Some of those are less than 2 years old. But, depending on how aggressive Democrats in Sacramento get with this plan, I might have to replace all of those. And the cost of the appliance is just part of it. Electric stoves and dryers need 220-volt power supplies to operate. I don’t have 220 lines installed in my kitchen or garage. Who is going to pay to retrofit all of that? Probably me, but also possibly everyone in California:
The exact long-term costs of phasing out gas would depend on technology development, and on changes in the prices of gas and electricity. Subsidies may be necessary. Sacramento’s public utility, for instance, offers rebates of up to $13,500 for homes whose owners do comprehensive energy efficiency upgrades including a conversion to all-electric power.
“We have 12 million buildings or so in the state, and retrofitting all of those adds up to some real money,” said McAllister of the California Energy Commission…
The California Energy Commission, on the other hand, said in its recent report on buildings that electrification is one of the cheapest ways to reduce planet-warming emissions. Although consumers would have to spend money upfront to replace gas-fueled appliances, they’d save money from reduced fuel costs.
I’m not convinced about the savings part of this equation. I can use all of my gas appliances routinely and the bill is still very cheap (around $20 a month except in the winter) because the cost of gas is so cheap. But electricity in California is sold in tiers. Those who only use a tiny amount for the month, pay very little. But most homes are going to use enough to push the rates into the upper tiers where the cost per kilowatt hour is significantly higher. The purpose of this is to induce people to save energy. But the practical result is going to be much higher bills if I’m suddenly using electricity to heat water, cook, heat the house, and dry clothes on top of everything else. It’s hard to estimate what the increased price will be but I’m certain it’s going to be a lot more than my current gas bill, probably several times more. So on top of the cost of replacing appliances and adding new electrical wiring to my home, there’s going to be a higher monthly bill as well.