By Dan Gearino | InsideClimateNews
With San Francisco contemplating a natural gas ban, and PG&E supporting a push for electrification, the state is changing over at a rapid pace.
When it comes to all-electric buildings, California moved last week at the policy equivalent of the speed of light. San Francisco officials said on Tuesday that they are introducing legislation that would be much like Berkeley’s ban on natural gas hookups in new construction. Just a few days earlier, the utility Pacific Gas & Electric said it would support the growing push for state rules that require new buildings to be all-electric.
These are all steps toward the possibility that there will be a statewide policy after California officials decide on revisions to the state building code that would take effect in 2023.
The pace of change is so rapid, “it’s taken even some of the advocates by surprise,” said Panama Bartholomy, director of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, a group of companies, advocacy groups and local governments working to move California toward all-electric buildings.
This speed is in contrast to previous changes, such as the decades it took for the public and policymakers to embrace rooftop solar, Bartholomy said.
His organization started in 2018. Berkeley’s gas ban happened in 2019, and now 30 California cities have policies that ban gas or at least encourage all-electric construction in some way. The movement is happening in other states as well, with cities in Massachusetts also passing rules and many others considering similar actions.
But Bartholomy said he also is well aware of how far there is to go in his group’s efforts, considering that only about one percent of California’s buildings are all-electric.
I asked Bartholomy for the big picture of why it’s important to decarbonize buildings. He said that all-electric construction is essential because new natural gas hookups are locking in the use of gas for decades at a time, when the entire economy needs to stop using fossil fuels. This electrification is part of broader changes that would include a transition to relying completely on renewable sources for electricity and all-electric vehicles for transportation.
“Ultimately, every customer we hook up to the gas network is digging the hole that much deeper, and we’re installing a 60- to 80-year asset for a building in a state here in California which has said in the next 25 years we need to completely decarbonize,” he said.