Are you ready to get rid of your gas stove? California is tackling climate change with a new mandate — to get rid of natural gas and electrify everything with energy from solar and wind. That puts the beloved gas cooktop on the hit list, along with other gas appliances. But the alternatives may not be as undesirable as you may think — including something called an induction cooktop that some chef’s like even better than gas.
Last December, California lawmakers gave their final approval to a plan that requires builders to put solar panels on all new homes. It was a first of its kind mandate in the nation, and demonstrates the kind of commitment that California has to reduce the climate change impact of fossil fuels. This new rule takes effect next year, in 2020, with exemptions for homes that don’t get enough sun. (1)
This is just one step toward a goal for 100% clean electric power in California by the year 2045. Governor Jerry Brown signed that bill in 2018, despite efforts by the federal government and the Trump administration to discredit climate change warnings. California is actively pursuing goals that align with the Paris Agreement in 2016.
Brown said at the time, “This bill and the executive order put California on a path to meet the goals of Paris and beyond.” The executive order calls for California to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it emits.
So if you live in California, you are part of this plan. And that means that at some point, your natural gas powered appliances may have to go. If you have plans to replace them in the near future, you may want to make the big switch now. But what are your options?
Cooking With Electricity
Celebrity chef, Curtis Stone, told the L.A. Times that he’s been cooking with an induction cooktop for years. He says it’s faster, cleaner, and more efficient than your typical gas range. He told the Times, “They’re more accurate. I know I’ll get a rolling simmer on a 6, and I know I’ll get a rapid simmer on a 7, and I know I’ll get a rapid boil on an 8.” (2)
He uses an induction stove at his home and his Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant in Hollywood. He told the Times that there’s very little he can do with a gas stove that he can’t do with induction, but there is an adjustment period when you make the switch. He says, “It might take you a couple of days of cooking on that cooktop to get used to it, where gas is very simple. You turn on the dial and it gets hot. There’s a bit more thinking that’s involved with induction.”
Heating and Cooling with Heat Pumps
The gas stove isn’t the only common household appliance on the list of climate change offenders. The typical HVAC system could soon be displaced with a heat pump to both heat and cool homes and businesses. The air conditioning half of the system is already a heat pump, but heaters are usually fueled by gas. It’s possible that one reversible heat pump could be used for both jobs.
Heat pumps can move thermal energy into a home for heating, and out of a home for cooling. To heat a home, they work best in climates that don’t experience extreme temperatures, like California.
Replacing Gas With All-Electric
There are other gas appliances that would need replacing as well, to reach a net zero energy goal. Currently, the residential use of gas breaks down like this:
- 66% for space and water heating
- 18% for clothes and dishwashers
- 9% for clothes dryers, pool and hot tub heaters
- 7% for cooking on a gas stove
Clean energy experts say with greener sources of electricity, it makes sense to switch. But it’s not going to be easy for some people, or cheap. Replacing all your appliances might add up to a hefty bill, and Southern California gas companies claim to have a different solution.
Renewable Natural Gas
Earlier this year, Southern California Gas and San Diego Gas & Electric proposed the use of “renewable natural gas” to offset the use of natural gas that’s extracted from the earth, usually with a method known as “fracking.” Renewable natural gas is a methane-rich gas that’s captured from biomass products at places like dairy farms, landfills, and sewage treatment plants.
The proposal consists of a plan to replace 5% of its natural gas with renewable gas by 2022 and increase that percentage to 20% by 2030. Customers would be charged a little more for the greener version in the form of a renewable natural gas tariff.
According to a study commissioned by SoCalGas, and the L.A. Times article, “If SoCalGas were to replace 18% of the fossil gas in its pipelines with renewable gas, the reduction in climate pollution would be the same as if nearly all homes and businesses served by SoCalGas switched to electricity.” The consultant also said that renewable gas would be cheaper overall for consumers because they wouldn’t have to replace their appliances. (3)
Some climate change experts are calling the study a case of “greenwashing.” Rachel Golden of the Sierra Club says, “We need to reduce methane emissions from landfills and dairies and other places. But what they’re proposing is not scalable.” She also called it a deadly distraction which could cause delays in our efforts to electrify.
Energy expert, Timothy O’Connor, of the Environmental Defense Fund said that renewable natural gas also creates some amount of indoor air pollution, so clean electricity is the best long-term solution for homes and businesses. He did say that for some industry applications, renewable gas may be appropriate because of technical and/or cost considerations.
There’s sure to be more of a battle ahead. The gas companies won’t go quietly, and they do have a good point about the expense. As California Energy Commissioner Andrew McAllister says, “We have 12 million buildings or so in the state, and retrofitting all of those adds up to some real money.”
Natural gas had earned a reputation as a greener fuel source than coal but it’s still a clean-energy offender. California is moving toward a net zero energy goal and wants to get 100% of its power from wind and solar by 2045. We’ve got about 26 years to get there.
(1) Solar Mandate
(3) Renewable Gas
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