SLO Goes Electric: What Does This Mean for Me?

As of Tuesday, June 16th, San Luis Obispo City Council passed a new energy framework supporting all-electric new buildings. With the county’s hopes to reach carbon neutrality by 2035, you may be wondering how this legislation will affect you and your need to invest in renewable energy for your home.

If the new ordinances become formally adopted by law and the California Energy Commission agrees with the city’s amendments to state code, then the new program will begin September 1 affecting all newly built structures.

As stated by the San Luis Obispo Tribune, “Under SLO’s framework, single-family homes will need to be built with an all-electric design, or be outfitted to become ready for electric use in the future if they choose to use natural gas. An exemption applies to commercial kitchens, which may use natural gas.” With the immediate changes in county regulations, adding solar panels to your home is a choice many new homeowners will have to make.

How does this affect you?

Mortgages of new homes will rise unless they are built with solar. Some people have raised concerns about how the code will affect the cost of housing and the cost of living within the city. In an area such as California where the cost of living is dramatically higher than in other areas, it is important to find ways to eliminate variable costs. The Energy Commission estimates that adding solar to your home has the potential to save a homeowner roughly $19,000 over a 30 year period. These savings are crucial as the mortgages on the Central Coast are expected to rise significantly.

While the cost to retrofit a home by converting gas to electric can be expensive, building new homes with that infrastructure already in place helps meet climate action goals and reduce home utility costs.

Greenhouse emissions are reduced, paving the way for a more sustainable county. City officials claim, “At build-out of the city’s General Plan (2035), the Clean Energy Choice Program is anticipated to avoid 6,250 metric tons of (carbon dioxide) equivalence per year,” the goal is to become a more sustainable county and to reduce greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere providing a better place to live for everybody.

Existing homes aren’t affected. The new regulation will not completely ban new natural gas hookups. Nor does it impose a financial burden on existing homes or businesses, since only new buildings are affected. SLO’s sustainability manager, Chris Read emphasized that the city’s proposal will maintain choice for builders to use gas or electric, as long as buildings are built to a more efficient standard to reduce energy usage.

Property owners of new homes still have a choice to use natural gas. Although the new requirement enforces new buildings to be all-electric, you can still choose to equip your home with natural gas, with the exception that the projected amount of fossil fuel to be used must be offset – either by retrofitting an older building or by paying an in-lieu fee. This offset requirement allows the city to offer choice to property owners, while not increasing greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas used to power new buildings.

Some commercial properties are exempt. The city’s new policy would increase building emissions performance requirements for some types of new buildings that may use mixed fuel (natural gas and electric), with an exemption to commercial kitchens, which may continue using natural gas. This will include nonresidential buildings, high-rise hotels, and mid- to high-rise residential buildings. To use less energy than the state requires, these structures will need to incorporate solar panels. 

Final Thoughts

With radical changes to county and California state regulations, it is logical and beneficial to equip your home with solar panels. With 29 other communities in California, in addition to SLO pursuing similar programs, renewable energy is continuously proving to be the future of residential and commercial energy. 

Working with a local solar provider such A.M. Sun Solar, that is well versed in financing options, PG&E and other local utility paperwork, system size and design certifications, service, and warranty work for renewable energy, can help you navigate what an electric home or business would look like. If you find yourself having questions about going solar, talk to A.M. Sun Solar about alternative energy. 

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