Chef worries about future Sacramento restaurant scene amid city’s all-electric building plans

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – The city of Sacramento is poised to do away with the use of natural gas in all new buildings beginning in 2023, but some restaurant owners feel the cost is too high.

“We will amend our city building code to require all new buildings to be all-electric, with no gas and no propane infrastructure,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

Natural gas is a significant producer of greenhouse gases and can harm residents who use gas stoves, water heaters and furnaces. 

It’s part of the mayor’s economic plan to create an electric economy with high-paying jobs. 

Proponents say that all-electric homes and buildings will be cheaper to build and will save on energy costs because Sacramento Municipal Utility District electric rates are among the lowest in the state. 

But what happens when the power goes out like it did for tens of thousands of SMUD customers last winter? 

SMUD says it will give rebates to those who move toward on-site storage. 

“Storage, batteries at the homes, so that you could, when you have an outage of electricity, you have local, on-site storage,” said SMUD CEO and General Manager Paul Lau.

Award-winning chef David Soohoo says that open flame stoves and burners for many commercial kitchens are a key to many types of cuisines.

He says they are fast and versatile and electric-powered alternatives don’t stack up, let alone ones that are battery-powered. 

He fears for Sacramento’s restaurant scene with the new ordinance. 

“I don’t want to see them go to Carmichael, I don’t want to see them go to Elk Grove, I don’t want to see them go to Citrus Heights,” SooHoo said. “Anywhere but Sacramento, are you kidding me, that’s what’s going to happen.”

But Steinberg says there are waivers and extensions so the three-year deadline may not apply. 

“This will not be absolutely required if the technology is not feasible or available,” he explained.

SMUD has pledged to work with restaurants and other kinds of businesses that use natural gas to develop that technology. 

Steinberg says the ordinance is not a done deal.  It will be voted on by the full city council on June 1.

The ordinance does not apply to existing homes or businesses, but the city intends to retrofit older buildings in the future, which is also a concern for businesses.

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