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Ordinance aims to phase out natural gas appliances in San Luis Obispo

Posted at 6:12 PM, Aug 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-12 22:29:07-04

Natural gas-powered appliances could soon become relics in the City of San Luis Obispo if the city council passes an ordinance aimed at making the city carbon neutral.

"The state's going to continue to move toward a more electric future and this is an opportunity for us to get out in front of that," said San Luis Obispo Sustainability Manager Chris Read.

The San Luis Obispo City Council wants to lead the charge, transitioning from natural gas to electric power in all new structures.

"In December of last year, our City Council joined Monterey Bay Community Power, so starting January 2020, we'll begin receiving carbon-free electricity," Read said.

Read said the switch in power source means zero emissions from electricity.

But city leaders want to take it a step further, updating the city building code to require all new residential and non-residential buildings to support only electric with few exceptions.

"Electric is not a big seller for us. Everything here is pretty much natural gas," said Appliance Oasis Owner Vernon Ramey, Jr.

A sales representative from Idler's Home Appliances echoed Ramey's sentiment that far fewer customers choose electric appliances today over natural gas.

About 80 percent of dryer sales at Idler's Home Appliances are for natural gas-powered appliances, the sales representative said.

For Ramey, sales of natural gas dryers and stoves are his bread and butter.

"They're about $100 more," Ramey said.

Natural gas appliances cost more up front, but energy experts say the monthly use bill tends to be higher for electric.

That's why the Central Coast Taxpayers Association is calling on the City Council to reject the ordinance.

In a letter to the Council, the non-profit calls the ordinance an attempt by the city to quote "burnish its extreme environmental credentials at the expense of residents and taxpayers."

But Read said there's room for compromise.

"The proposal only affects new buildings," Read said. "For those folks that would like to move toward all electric, we're looking to develop a retrofit program that will support folks in doing so."

Under the current draft of the ordinance, developers could pay an in-lieu fee to install natural gas hookups in the building or they could commit funds to retrofitting a different property within the city from gas to electric.

The City Council will consider a final vote on the ordinance at its September meeting, when it will approve a final draft for the state energy commission to review. Once approved, the ordinance would take effect in San Luis Obispo at the start of 2020.