December 31, 2019. Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) announced that more than 110 local governments across Southern California, representing approximately 8 million people, have passed resolutions in support of affordable and balanced strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The resolutions urge policymakers to safeguard consumers’ ability to choose natural gas, propane, or electric appliances for their homes and businesses. They were passed in response to concerns that state agencies are being called upon to take steps to prohibit the use of affordable natural gas in buildings.
“Advances in renewable natural gas and hydrogen technologies mean that we can meet our climate goals without sacrificing the reliability and resilience of our energy systems and without forcing people to give up their gas stoves, board up their fireplaces and take on costly renovations,” said Sharon Tomkins, SoCalGas vice president of strategy and engagement and chief environmental officer. “To meet its ambitious environmental goals, California needs clean gas working together with clean electricity, and most importantly we cannot lose sight of affordability.”
A growing number of experts, including researchers at Stanford University, University of California, Irvine, and Lawrence Livermore Labs, have raised concerns that the electrification of buildings, alone, could undercut the state’s environmental goals, while making basic utility services less reliable and more expensive.
“Renewable gases can increase people’s use of renewable energy and combat climate change—and we can’t become carbon neutral without them,” said Dr. Jack Brouwer, Director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at University of California, Irvine. “These renewable gases are easily stored in the pipelines and also provide a complementary way to deliver renewable energy that will be more reliable and resilient than using the electric grid alone.”
The Energy Futures Initiative (EFI), a research center founded by former US Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz, reached similar conclusions. In a 2019 report on the pathways for achieving deep decarbonization in California, EFI found that meeting California’s environmental goals will require a range of clean energy pathways, including clean fuels like renewable natural gas (RNG), hydrogen and biofuels.
Today, more than 90 percent of homes in Southern California rely on natural gas for space and water heating or cooking. In surveys, Southern Californians regularly report they prefer natural gas for cooking, and home and water heating by a margin of 4 to 1, citing its affordability.