Earlier this month, Calgren Dairy Fuels in neighboring Tulare County celebrated the completion of its renewable natural gas facility in Pixley, an operation that’s gathering biogas from multiple dairy farms and turning it into pipeline quality renewable methane. I couldn’t be more pleased that the San Joaquin Valley is adding renewable natural gas to the wind and solar renewable energy we already generate. Renewable natural gas makes dairy farming more sustainable and reduces pollution from California’s agricultural sector.
And yet, just as we begin to make real progress in creating renewable gas from our dairies, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has decided that all homes and businesses in California must switch to electricity only, eliminating natural gas—and even renewable natural gas—as an energy source. They want no more gas home heating, no gas cooking or clothes dryers or gas water heaters. All those appliances will need to be changed out for electric appliances.
The CPUC is currently conducting a proceeding to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, about which they say, "We need to electrify our homes and buildings to reduce the use of fossil fuels in California.”
To add to this, the California Energy Commission held a workshop in June to discuss their study that concludes the state should get rid of our natural gas pipeline infrastructure.
These state agencies say they are trying to address greenhouse gas emissions. However, the state’s proposed solution will lead to many more problems for Californians.
First, using only electricity will drastically affect our wallets. We all know that electricity is more expensive than natural gas. Adding solar and wind has given Californians some of the most expensive utility bills in the entire country. Paying for the additional solar panels, batteries and transmission lines to meet demand of increased power load at all the homes in California will be added in to the cost of each kilowatt hour. And that does not include the wildfire expenses that will be passed to consumers.
Second, the state’s electric grid cannot support a massive increase in demand for electricity caused by forcing residents and businesses to use only electricity. Will the grid be able to meet those needs with all renewable electricity? Experts say no and definitely not in any foreseeable future. And that means electric-only homes will still cause climate pollution.
Third, it makes no sense to have all California households and businesses using one single source of energy without sensible backup and redundancy—especially in this age of international cyber warfare and wildfire outages. It should be clear to everyone that multiple sources of energy—electricity and fuels—are crucial to resiliency and reliability.
Inexplicably, the CPUC and Energy Commission are ignoring a study that finds that using renewable natural gas—clean and carbon-neutral fuel we’re creating right here in the Valley—can be part of the solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Research last year showed that if California replaces just 20 percent of its traditional natural gas with renewable natural gas, it will have the same positive results for the environment as changing every home and business to electricity-only. And the switch to 20 percent renewable natural gas would be two to three times more cost effective as forcing people to only use electricity.
Why would we choose a climate solution that costs a lot more and takes away something people prefer?
We shouldn’t. We should choose the more affordable solution that doesn’t require people to switch out their appliances or rely on just one energy source.
If you’re as concerned about this as I am, I encourage you to go to the California Public Utilities Commission website and email the Public Advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to get involved, please visit the Californians for Balanced Energy website at www.c4BES.org to learn how you can make your voice is heard.
David Couch represents Kern County’s Fourth District.