Home Advocate Encinitas just banned natural gas in new buildings, including homes

Encinitas just banned natural gas in new buildings, including homes

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Encinitas City Council passed a sweeping building electrification ordinance on Wednesday, September 22, which, with few exceptions, will eliminate the installation of natural gas infrastructure on new residential and commercial construction within city limits. .

The ordinance, which was passed by 5-0, is similar to other measures passed by 49 other California communities over the past two years, but most of those municipalities are located in northern California. The Encinitas Ordinance is the most comprehensive ordinance adopted by a community in San Diego County.

“We are really excited because we are doing our part, we care about climate change, we want to be a more environmentally committed city and we are doing everything we can to make it happen,” said Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear.

The exceptions are quite narrow and are reserved for emergency buildings considered essential facilities as defined by the California Health and Safety Code and construction in extreme scenarios for projects requiring major utility upgrades.

Restaurants that demonstrate that they must cook with a flame could also benefit from an exception. Examples include restaurants that use woks, pizza ovens, and barbecue themed restaurants. However, if an exception is made, the restaurant must employ methods that will reduce the greenhouse gas impacts of the gas appliance.

Where an exception is made to the ordinance, the new construction must be wired so that it can pass to be electric-ready in the future.

The ordinance also applies to secondary suites, more commonly known as granny apartments.

“This is a very good ordinance that will essentially allow us to reduce our local greenhouse gases and air pollutants in the structures of our buildings, so this is a very good step forward,” Joe said. Mosca, member of the municipal council of Encinitas.

Blakespear said the ordinance would not cause construction costs to rise sharply.

“For example, an electric water heater costs about the same as a gas water heater, so it’s not supposed to increase costs significantly,” Blakespear said. “If someone builds an apartment for grandma in their house, they have to turn on the electricity because you have to turn on the light. But if you don’t need to run the gas, it’s actually cheaper because then you don’t have (to install) any gas infrastructure. ”

Residential and commercial buildings are responsible for about 25% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions when you factor in fossil fuels consumed on-site and demand for electricity, according to the California Air Resources Board. . California has set a goal of getting 100% of its electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045 or earlier.

The Encinitas Ordinance was supported by the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition, a recently formed partnership of local environmental and public policy groups.

“It is clear that there is no time for small actions to tackle climate change and we need our cities to act boldly,” said Karinna Gonzalez of Hammond Climate Solutions at a conference. press before the vote. “Passing an all-electric ordinance is the first step in eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels. “

However, Kerry Jackson, a member of the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank that advocates free-market solutions to public policy problems, questioned the effectiveness of all-electric ordinances.

“If you permanently stop the use of fossil fuels throughout California tomorrow, the impact on greenhouse gas emissions would be next to zero,” Jackson said. “This state emits only about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, China and India will build dozens, if not hundreds, of coal-fired power plants in the years to come. There is nothing this state, not even this entire nation, can do to offset the increase in emissions from these countries. ”

San Diego Gas & Electric, which includes natural gas as a core part of its energy portfolio, has released a carefully crafted statement about the Encinitas Ordinance.

“The fight against climate change requires the widespread adoption of several strategies and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ranging from stricter building codes and electrification of transport to energy storage and innovations. when it comes to hydrogen, ”SDG & E spokesperson Helen Gao said in an email.

“SDG & E supports cost-effective and inclusive policies of all technologies with the potential to reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions. SDG & E has set an ambitious goal of achieving zero net emissions by 2045, and we look forward to working with Encinitas and other regional leaders to reach this critical milestone. “

SDG & E is a subsidiary of Sempra, which is also the parent company of Southern California Gas, the country’s largest natural gas distribution utility.

A 2019 coalition backed by SoCalGas and business groups lined up around 100 cities and counties that endorsed a push for “balanced energy solutions” that clean energy advocates say would slow down local governments banning or discouraging gas connections in new constructions.

SoCalGas also filed a lawsuit against the California Energy Commission last year, complaining that the commission failed to fulfill its legal obligation to report on the benefits of natural gas. The company and the commission quietly settled the lawsuit last month. Details were not disclosed, but a spokesperson for the energy commission told the Los Angeles Times that the commission had not taken the action requested by SoCalGas.