California’s push to ban natural gas in new building construction turned into a shove Wednesday when state regulators approved varying attempts to limit gas use in future buildings in five cities and one county across the state.
As part of reviewing local ordinances that exceed the state’s 2019 building standards, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved new local building requirements against gas in Menlo Park, West Hollywood, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Monica, and Marin County.
In the latter four local jurisdictions, the approved requirements allow natural gas, but only if other efficiency measures can make the structures more efficient than all-electric buildings. Menlo Park’s ordinance requires electric space heat and water heating, but allows gas cooking and fireplaces, while West Hollywood’s ordinance applies to new and major renovations, requiring solar photovoltaic or solar thermal and added energy and water efficiency measures.
“There is a clear mandate to decarbonize our energy systems and our economy,” said CEC Commissioner Andrew McAllister, referring to California’s precedent-setting climate change mitigation measures. “At the state level we should partner with, learn from and support local jurisdictions that develop innovative solutions.”
McAllister and his colleagues voting to approve the local ordinances characterized them as focusing on “building decarbonization,” or what they call “strategic lowering of climate-changing emissions from buildings.” Five of the local entities are moving toward building electrification, they concluded.
Since the well-known college town of Berkeley in the East San Francisco Bay last summer established a ban on gas in new buildings, more than 20 local governments in California have passed similar measures, according to a coalition that is tracking building decarbonization and purports to have a “roadmap for California building decarbonization.”
CEC Chairman David Hochschild supports what he told local news media in Sacramento is “a need to see [more] innovation in new construction” as a means of realizing the state’s climate change mitigation goals.
CEC officials emphasized that California has been regularly updating its nation-leading minimum building standards for the past 40 years, and local governments historically have followed suit with some even tougher standards.
“But this new wave of local standards with a focus on decarbonization is unprecedented in the state’s history,” said a CEC spokesperson, noting it is an example of tackling global problems at the local level.