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Sharon Tomkins, vice president of strategy and engagement for SoCalGas, joined by local county supervisors, and leaders from a business association an an energy group, briefs the audience on current energy issues regarding alternative energy options in the courtyard between Saroyan Theater and Valdez Hall. Photo by Frank Lopez.

published on June 28, 2019 - 11:53 AM
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Local county supervisors joined California energy groups and companies, and a local business association to brief local media and stakeholders on recent state energy policies in the courtyard between the Saroyan Theater and Valdez Hall on Thursday.

Fresno County Supervisors, Steve Brandau and Nathan Magsig, Kings County Supervisor Joe Nebs and Tulare Supervisor Kuyler Crocker together with BizFed Central Valley Business Federation, Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions and Southern California Gas Company to show their support for consumer choice regarding alternative energy options.

The briefing was held in response to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) rule-making that aims at reducing greenhouse gas  emissions from buildings, including both homes and businesses, in favor of converting to electricity alone, away from options such as natural gas.

“Modeling tells us that 100 percent renewable electricity alone isn’t enough to help us meet our 2030 greenhouse gas reduction goals; we also need to electrify our homes and buildings to reduce the use of fossil fuels in California,” CPUC President Michael Picker said in a press release from January.

The counties of Kings, Tulare and Kern have all recently passed resolutions supporting an approach that preserves local control, promotes consumer choice and keeps utility rates affordable.

The CPUC is currently holding meetings throughout the state as part of the rule-making process.

Tara Lynn Gray, CEO of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce and Ambassador for BizFed Central Valley Business Federation, opened the briefing with introductions and a short speech regarding the CPUCs decisions and the lack of choice for consumers, and about other alternatives, mainly renewable natural gas (RNG).

RNG, also known as biomethane, is a pipeline-quality gas that is interchangeable with conventional natural gas and is derived from organic waste from materials such as food waste, garden and lawn clippings, and animal and plant-based material.

“Further RNG development will offer an important economic development opportunity in our region,” Gray said. “Perhaps most importantly, RNG can help us address climate change, just as much as switching to all electricity.”

According to the California Building Association, a state trade association that advocates for the housing and building industry, homeowners could see increase in utility bills if natural gas is eliminated as an option.

A 2018 study from the Building Association found that homes swapping their natural gas appliances for all electric alternatives could cost a homeowner $7,200 to upgrade wiring and electrical panels and to purchase new appliances and $877 per household each year in increase energy costs.

The total cost increase for the 7 million single-family homes across Southern California could be between $4.3 to $6.1 billion per year.

“When so many in our state are struggling to find affordable housing, and the number of homeless continues to increase, it is shocking that the state of California would allow unelected bureaucrats to impose billions of dollars in what amounts to new taxes without legislative approval and without the input of local governments,” said Steve Worthley, Board Member at Californians for Balanced Energy Solutions. “What is more shocking is how the regulators would actually undermine environmental laws that are already on the books and proven to be successful in reducing greenhouse gases.”

Sharon Tomkins, SoCalGas vice president for strategy and engagement, said that the company is glad to meet California’s environmental goals, but that it must be done with a balanced approach that leaves consumers with more choices.

“I’m so proud to stand by these local leaders who are advocating for local control, affordability and choice,” Tomkins said. “It is already expensive enough to live in this state, as we address climate change, we need to make sure that our solutions are affordable otherwise we have failed. Energy isn’t and shouldn’t be a luxury item.”

The briefing ended with Tomkins’ speech and the media and members of the audience were allowed to ask questions.

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