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COLAB: City of SLO’s move toward all-electric homes makes no sense

SLO panel discusses benefits of making new homes all-electric

San Luis Obispo is considering new building policies that would require new housing to be all-electric. A panel on Aug. 22, 2019, discussed the benefits of using electric over gas.
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San Luis Obispo is considering new building policies that would require new housing to be all-electric. A panel on Aug. 22, 2019, discussed the benefits of using electric over gas.

The San Luis Obispo city staff and City Council are about to launch yet another regulatory overreach. This time, an ordinance is proposed requiring that every new home within the city be built to accommodate all-electric heating and appliances. Even if the homeowner or builder prefers gas and includes gas, the home would have to be designed and built as if it were all electric as well.

The city insists gas is not banned; however, all new homes must be “prewired and retrofit ready.” The draft ordinance, which we reviewed, also requires that new commercial and industrial buildings be subject to the restrictions.

From an effective public policy standpoint, there is no legitimate reason to impose this new regulation. Moreover, with less than one week remaining prior to the council meeting on Sept. 3, there is not enough time for the public to study and react.

The final council agenda item had not yet been published as of Wednesday morning Aug. 28. The issue should at least be postponed to provide the general public time to consider the first phase of the ban.

Homes in SLO produce 28,930 MTCO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) per year, out of a total of 340,00 from all sources. Staff indicated the ultimate goal of the gas ban is to reduce the residential inventory amount by 7,800 per year. It will take years to reach this goal, as new homes subject to the ordinance will be built gradually, depending on market absorption rate, the economy and costs. In the beginning, this could be a few hundred MTCO2e, growing to a few thousand over the years.

Sixty-five percent of the CO2 in SLO is generated by cars and trucks, and much of that is on state highways over which the city has no control. Thus, the limited reduction claimed for this program has no real benefit of scale, yet is highly intrusive and ultimately costly to homeowners.

Meanwhile, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) reports that the statewide total emissions for 2017 was 424.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. San Luis Obispo’s total of 340,000 MTCO2e is only .001% of the state’s 424.1 million total.

If the city of San Luis Obispo City all of its CO2 totally, it would have no meaningful impact. In turn, the amount of natural gas to be reduced by the ban is only .00002% of the state total.

Why would the city subject its homeowners, builders and everyone else to the costly, intrusive and wasteful ordinance? It cannot be justified as public policy by the numbers.

It is simply symbolic virtue signaling of the worst kind.

Why doesn’t the City Council consider the fact that the Diablo Canyoon Power Plant forestalls the production of 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year?

This will largely be replaced by natural gas to provide the base electric loads at night.

Remember, most of the Monterey Bay Power Authority electricity is not flowing from British Columbia hydro or some other CO2 free source, but is simply a trading scheme of “clean energy” certificates. The actual local electrons will come from PG&E and other gas sources, especially after the Diablo Plant closes.

Furthermore, what did the SLO City Council ever do to help keep Diablo open?

Mike Brown is the government affairs director of the Coalition of Labor Agriculture and Business (COLAB) of San Luis Obispo County.

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