In a major step toward eventual electrification, the California Energy Commission (CEC) on Wednesday proposed limiting the use of natural gas in new and remodeled buildings beginning in 2023.

California natural gas

The standards still need approval by the California Building Standards Commission, which is scheduled to take up the issue in December.

“The impact of climate change is accelerating, bringing an even greater need for buildings that are comfortable, efficient and resilient,” said CEC spokesperson Amber Beck. “Each updated code guides the construction of buildings to better withstand extreme weather, lower energy costs, and reduce climate and air pollution.”

The CEC, which reviews building codes every three years, plans to establish electric heat pumps as a baseline technology for space and water heating. Engineers estimated the code would provide $1.5 billion in consumer benefits over the next 30 years and eliminate up to 10 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

CEC’s J. Andrew McAlliser said the code “firmly pivots California’s building toward clean, low-carbon technologies.” The five-member commission’s action is to be the “foundation” to help the state meet its carbon neutrality goals, he said.

The updated code would require electric heat pump technology for space and water heating; electricity-ready requirements for heating, cooking and transportation; expanded solar photovoltaic and battery storage use; and stronger ventilation standards, particularly for gas cooking.

Forty California cities already have adopted building codes with CEC approval that limit natural gas hookups in new and remodeled buildings.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) spokesperson James Noonan said the utility “strongly supports California’s climate and clean air goals,” including the use of electric appliances in buildings “when cost-effective.” PG&E also supports decarbonizing the state’s economy, including a gas ban.

Sempra’s Southern California Gas Co. spokesperson Christine Detz said the utility mainly supported “efforts to strengthen energy efficiency standards for both residential and nonresidential buildings.”