Addressing climate change, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is considering Phase III in the Rulemaking (R.) 19-01-011 regarding the decarbonization of buildings. Phase III concerns the modification or end to gas distribution main and service line extension allowances, refunds, and discounts.
On December 15, 2021, CPSA and PHTA submitted comments opposing CPUC’s approach.
In the submitted comments, CPSA and PHTA stated that the elimination allowances, refunds, and discounts on a reliable energy source in new buildings would do little to reduce emissions and will only increase costs: Given California’s ongoing housing and affordability crisis, which has been made worse by the pandemic, excessive inflation, and supply chain issues, the elimination of those allowances, refunds, and discounts will be a significant burden on the health of the pool and spa industry throughout the state. The lack of offsets will compound the financial stress of already overbearing business taxes and fees, costs of permits, and costs for environmental reviews.
Furthermore, according to the two pool associations, when it comes to swimming pools and inground spas, the comments noted there are no non-gas appliances feasible for heating water. California is already subject to some of the strictest building codes and standards in the nation, with many owners and developers of new, large commercial buildings seeking to obtain LEED certification. Add on that there are no consumer-friendly alternatives for using gas for outdoor kitchens, cooktops, fire pits, and fireplaces, the elimination of allowance, refunds, and discounts could cripple the pool and spa industry and put many out of business.
The comments also specified that gas pool heaters are now being manufactured to be 95% efficient, and there are also hybrid heat pump and gas water heaters, but those still require natural gas to adequately heat and maintain a desirable water temperature. Additionally, electricheated pools need 3.6 times the equipment running nearly twice as long as high-efficiency gas pool heaters to maintain an average water temperature of 80 degrees.
Opening comments on the staff proposal of Phase III were due December 20, 2021. These comments were submitted as part of the quasilegislative procedure that began January 31, 2019. The next steps in this process included reply comments on the Phase III Staff Proposal due by January 10, 2022; the February 28, 2022, deadline to file a motion to request evidential hearings; the March 4, 2022, deadline to respond to a motion to request evidential hearings; and the March 9, 2022, deadline for a ruling on a motion to request evidential hearings.