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California elected officials, both state and local, are on a crusade to rid California of its dependence on fossil fuels in the name of clean air and reducing greenhouse gases. All Californians want clean air and water; however, the implementation of this effort is being pursued largely without public notice or input and is being done in a manner contrary to what polls indicate the California citizens desire. This approach is typical of progressive policymakers who believe they know best for the public.

In 2018 then-Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation establishing a goal to reduce greenhouse gases by 40% below levels in 1998 by 2045. To accomplish this, public policy leaders believe the state must eliminate all fossil fuels by 2050. The bottom line, this statute will require the electrification of California to be supported entirely by power generated by solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric.

Implementation of this legislation has been kicked to the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission, hardly institutions that interact with the public or receive much attention from the media. In addition, a number of cities have taken up the mantle and have enacted REACH Codes of which alter the state building codes allowing local public entities to mandate all-electric building and the banning of natural gas for new residential and commercial buildings and remodels. The process to adopt these codes are done with virtually no public notice or participation. Already 30 cities in California have enacted such codes to one degree or another.

The result will be new housing developments without natural gas service, thereby no gas stoves, water heaters or space heating, no natural gas pool or spa heaters, no natural gas barbeques, fireplaces, fire pits or outdoor heaters. New commercial buildings with restaurants will not be able to cook with gas stoves; health clubs, schools, and athletic facilities will not be able to heat commercial pools and spas with natural gas, thus making such facilities unaffordable. Is this what the public wants?

First, California’s 1.2 million residential pool and spas and 40,000 commercial swimming pools and spas account for only 4% of the natural gas consumption in the state. According to the California Air Resources Board, natural gas consumption in California residential buildings account for only 7% of greenhouse gas emissions.

A poll conducted by the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) found when purchasing a home, only one-in-ten consumers would choose solely electrical appliances and two-thirds of voters oppose eliminating the use of natural gas! These are very strong numbers, and you can bet this poll did not question consumers on their views of the government taking away their natural gas barbeques, fireplaces, fire pits, or spa heaters. If they had, these poll numbers would have been much higher. 

According to The United Way’s 2018 The Real Cost of Living Report, nearly 40 percent of California households are rent-burdened and spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

This is particularly an issue for low-income families, who spend 20 percent or more of their monthly income on energy costs.

Efforts to ban or restrict the use of natural gas will only exacerbate California’s affordable housing crisis and increase the energy burden of households that can least afford these higher costs. Unfortunately, it is going to get worse as additional costs mandated on electric utility companies to implement wildfire prevention measures and costs to upgrade their electrical grid to account for more electrical appliances will add hundreds of dollars to consumers’ electrical bills over the next five years.

Natural gas offers a clean, safe, and reliable energy solution saving the average typical new household that uses natural gas for space heating, water heating, cooking, and drying about $900 per year compared with a home that uses only electricity for the same applications. Across Southern California’s 7 million single-family homes, the total cost increase to convert to full electrification could be $4.3 to $6.1 billion per year alone.

The median price for a home in California is already more than twice the national level, and nearly 42 percent of California households are cost-burdened according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. 

A study by Guidehouse (formerly Navigant Consulting) and the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) showed that switching to all-electric appliances would cost the average Southern California household on average more than $7,200 to upgrade wiring and electrical panels and purchase new appliances. The California Association of Realtors has estimated that for every $1,000 added to the cost of a new home, over 100,000 Californians will no longer be able to afford to purchase their own home. 

Sounds like what California citizens and consumers want? Of course not, but the public policy leaders and regulators will continue to go down this path until the public wakes up and learns what they are doing, and even then, it might be too late.

For the swimming pool and spa industry, there are significant consequences to decarbonization. From the service side of the business, there will likely be more homes with swimming pools and stand-alone electric spas, as gas hook up are eliminated for traditional pool heaters. This will likely present substantially more work for the same monthly fee. 

For pool builders, there are going to be substantial obstacles. Reduced lot sizes for new homes will restrict the size of pool equipment pads, a significant issue for heat pump water heaters. Less demand for built-in spas due to the increased cost of heating, less demand for outside kitchens and water/fire features as part of the pool construction projects, and less demand for commercial pools and spas. For pool manufacturers, traditional gas water heaters will be phased out as well as other gas appliances. 

CPSA has joined two state coalitions consisting of restaurants, realtors, the building industry, gas appliance manufacturers, commercial building owners, and patio interests to begin to fight back. The coalition is looking into social media and other campaigns designed to notify and educate the public about these efforts and what it means for them in their everyday activities of living and leisure.

The swimming pool industry, especially with its extensive service industry and its key relationship with homeowners, is in a perfect position to help spread the word. Homeowners do not want to lose their barbeques and spas and will be a potent force as this debate continues.