Policy - 19/December/2019

California shows the way on building electrification

The argument for natural gas as a bridge to a cleaner renewable future has grown weaker as the case for electrification as the most efficient way to decarbonise has grown

California, the world’s fifth largest economy, is reaching an energy tipping point. Its cities are rapidly discouraging the use of natural gas in new buildings. The use of gas heating in existing buildings will soon be on the agenda.
In July 2019, Berkeley became the first US city to ban gas hook-ups in new buildings. The law, which takes effect in January 2020, is symbolic, given the radical university community is mostly already built. But it is seen as the first step in a national trend. Berkeley is now researching an unprecedented ban on gas hook-ups in existing build-ings, with results expected in 2020.
The pace of change has been dizzying. By December 2019, another 21 California juris-dictions had adopted restrictions on gas in buildings, says Mike Henchen from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a not-for-profit organisation. Most have adopted so-called “reach” codes that encourage electrification by requiring new residential buildings with gas hook-ups to waste less energy. On December, 11, the California Energy Com-mission (CEC) unanimously voted to affirm limits on gas usage in six jurisdictions, in-cluding San Jose, the tenth largest city in the US, clearing the way for the policies to take effect in January 2020. Berkeley’s ban was not included and will be submitted to the state’s Building Standards Commission by the end of 2019.

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