OpEd: All-electric Mandate concerns Homeowners, Builders and Developers
OPEd: All-electric Mandate concerns Homeowners, Builders and Developers
By Rob Koslowsky
– NCBE’s Role and the BDC Survey
“Overall, emissions from the electric power sector are at their lowest level since 1987 and are down by a third … compared to 15 years ago.” – Tom Kuhn, EEI President, marking Earth Day’s 50th anniversary
The North Coast Builders Exchange (NCBE) is “a non-profit contractors association that provides services and representation to construction-related firms in Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa Counties.” NCBE represents the construction industry’s interests in local and state regulatory and legislative issues .
The Building Decarbonization Coalition (BDC) “unites building industry stakeholders with energy providers, environmental organizations, and local governments to power California's homes and workspaces with clean energy.” 
To be blunt, the BDC’s whole reason for existence is to remove every possible amount of carbon emitted from each and every building structure, no matter the obstacle or the cost. For now, people exhaling carbon dioxide inside these structures are exempt from the Coalition’s mission to eliminate sources of carbon from buildings.
BDC’s published efforts, to date, include the banning of fossil fuel usage in buildings (“market transformation”), promotion of all-electric construction and removal of all natural gas appliances (“consumer inspiration”), and pushing for new building codes that target homeowners, in particular (“public policy”).
All-electric technologies, most mandated to replace natural gas appliances.
Neither the NCBE nor BDC directly represent homeowners. Their clients do not include property owners, yet it’s those clients that directly define the environment homeowners will experience going forward – developers and builders as well as behind the scenes influencers of government policy.
Homeowners have been kept out of the loop and most are oblivious to the changes coming that will cost them tens of thousands of dollars and remove their ability to operate and maintain their homestead in the way they’re accustomed to.
The BDC Survey
A survey conducted by BDC in August 2019 included builders and energy consultants, the latter group already pre-disposed to promoting green energy in building construction.
Builders, however, are a malleable group. Strictly speaking, builders don’t care what structure they build, as long as the playing field for all construction companies is level, i.e., if one builder must build an all-electric home, then all other competing builders can’t build mixed-fuel residences. Every builder “suffers” by the new rules accordingly.
One developer said to those conducting the survey, “If we don’t provide [gas appliances], they can go down the street and buy a new home from my competitor with a gas stove.” That can no longer happen in California.
As 2020 unfolds, builders may cringe when homeowners expresses their preference for gas appliances, but if the municipal government, at the insistence of an unelected energy commission dictates “no more gas,” then the building industry can point to the building code and say, “Sorry, but we now have ‘all-electric’ for you.” All that’s left for the BDC, government, or building trades to do is produce talking points and sell sheets to address wary homebuyers. It sounds more like the tactics of a political campaign than a quest to build a safer and more secure residence with superior quality.
There will be many interesting conversations held with homeowners across California in the months and years to come, especially if the all-electric reach code is not amended and natural gas bans are not reversed.
BDC Survey Responses
In reviewing the August 2019 survey, published by the BDC, I found the section, “Barriers to All-Electric Construction” the most interesting . Builders and green consultants alike observed, “Homeowner preference for gas cooking clearly emerged as the most significant barrier to all-electric construction. Even among respondents who indicated construction of all-electric homes is practical today, homeowner preference for gas cooking was considered a barrier.”
The report added, “Gas-fired cooking appliances were the dominant choice for builders of high-end, production, and custom homes. Multifamily and affordable homebuilders reported regularly installing electric resistance cooking appliances but cited installing electromagnetic induction cooking as cost-prohibitive.”
Homeowner preference and higher initial costs for induction cookers appear to have been ignored in the subsequent reach codes outlined in the 2019 California building code, which went into effect January 1, 2020.