Nine more local governments were approved last Thursday to ban natural gas or restrict it in new construction, bringing to 15 the number approved by the California Energy Commission (CEC) as going beyond recently revised state building standards.
Noting that the restrictions on gas use have been shown to be cost effective and meet existing state laws, the five-member CEC unanimously approved what it designated as “reach codes” for the nine cities in the greater San Francisco Bay area: Santa Rosa, Berkeley, Mountain View, Windsor, Milpitas, Healdsburg, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, and Brisbane.
With more than a dozen other cities in the state considering similar bans, CEC Chair David Hochschild said the volume of reaching codes is going to accelerate in California. Environmental groups and utilities like Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) voiced support for the gas bans.
PG&E spokesperson Ari Vannenen cited strong support for electrification as a means of supporting California’s aggressive climate and clean air goals, while also recognizing that in the long-term a more “multi-faceted approach” will be needed, including the use of renewable natural gas (RNG), or bio methane, and hydrogen.
“As California’s decarbonization policies evolve, PG&E will continue to ensure the safe and reliable operation of its electric and gas systems,” Vannenen said.
As the nation’s largest gas distribution utility, Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) is opposing the local moves to electrification in new construction as short-sighted, contending consumers want the choice of gas appliances for heating and cooking.
Electrification is not a “silver bullet,” according to SoCalGas spokesperson Chris Gilbride, citing science and a recent study by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as showing that “electrification alone is not a pathway for getting to carbon neutral.”
“The bottom line is that to get to zero [emissions] you need renewable fuels, and Lawrence Livermore notes that because RNG can produce net negative emissions, it is critical to actually getting to zero.”
Last December, California’s push to ban gas in new building construction turned into an official “shove” when the CEC approved an initial set of varying attempts to limit gas use in future buildings in five cities and one county across the state.
As part of the first review of local ordinances that exceed the state’s 2019 building standards, energy commissioners approved new local building requirements against gas in Menlo Park, West Hollywood, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Monica, and Marin County.
CEC Commissioner Andrew McAllister at the time said the state has a “clear mandate” to decarbonize the state’s energy system and economy.