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Building electrification is gaining momentum across the country for its climate and public health benefits
From the offices where we work, the restaurants where we eat, and the homes where we live, buildings are a huge part of our lives. The same is true for our energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Heating and cooling those structures and powering all the appliances and devices within them contributes a significant amount of climate pollution – and represents a significant opportunity to slash emissions.
For KLA client Encinitas, and a growing number of local governments in California and beyond, one way to tackle those building sector emissions is through electrification.
Last fall, Encinitas became the first local jurisdiction in the San Diego region – and 50th in the state -- to require all new buildings to include electric appliances.
These are targeted moves as burning natural gas, propane and other fuels in buildings accounts for about 10% of the state’s GHG emissions. This move not only lowers emissions, but also it reduces energy bills, improves indoor air quality and protects public health and safety. Indeed, headlines like “Kill Your Gas Stove – It’s bad for the environment, and you” and “We need to talk about your gas stove, your health and climate change” have given the electrification movement momentum in California and beyond.
The green building ordinance stems directly from Encinitas’ Climate Action Plan (CAP) and the Building Efficiency Strategy, which seeks to cut back on emissions by increasing the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings, in addition to reducing energy use in municipal facilities.
The ordinance requires all-electric construction of all new buildings, both residential and non-residential. To be considered an all-electric building, the building must feature the following:
• No natural gas or propane plumbing installed within the building
• No gas meter connection
• Must use electricity as the source of energy for space heating, water heating, cooking appliances, and clothes drying appliances
• May include solar thermal pool heating, if applicable
The ordinance includes a separate requirement for energy efficiency upgrades that applies to residential additions and alterations with a permit value of $50,000 or greater. Existing nonresidential projects will also trigger energy efficiency requirements if they are adding at least 1,000 square feet of building space or undergoing a building alteration with a permit value of at least $200,000. For all new nonresidential construction, the ordinance will require all-electric construction, with limited exceptions.
The green building ordinance was not announced by decree. It was approved unanimously by the City Council after robust public input and stakeholder engagement, including:
• Three public workshops in June 2020, February 2021 and May 2021
• Public comment period in May 2021
• Formation of a Stakeholder Committee comprised of 13 members (environmental advocates, green building specialists, developers, commercial property owners and local business owners)
• Presentation to the Environmental Commission in June 2021 (unanimous approval for recommendation to Council)
• Unanimous approval by City Council in October 2021
• Approval by the California Energy Commission (expected May 2022)
The effort got a huge boost from the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition, an alliance of community, labor, business, faith, justice, and environmental organizations that rallied community support around electrification and shares helpful resources like this FAQ.
The City aims to make the transition to all-electric homes and businesses as smooth a possible. It's spreading the word through events and information like this blog post on induction cooking and plans to host trainings for developers and project applicants once the ordinance becomes effective.
When the ordinance officially goes into effect (anticipated in May), Encinitas will begin monitoring implementation via the City’s online permitting system and will publish results in the 2022 CAP Annual Report. Looking ahead, the City is already thinking about the next cycle of reach codes. Building codes in California are updated by the state every three years. Staying ahead of this cycle requires strategic planning in advance.
Learn more about the City of Encinitas Climate Action Planning efforts on the City's website or Climate Dashboard (powered by KLA).
“The City of Encinitas is proud to be a climate leader in a region pushing the envelope on ambitious, yet essential actions like building electrification. Implementing such policy helps the City achieve our greenhouse gas reduction targets. This is the latest example of Encinitas delivering on the goals set in our Climate Action Plan. Other achievements include adoption of an electric leaf blower ordinance and formation of a Community Choice Energy program.”
(Crystal Najera, Sustainability Manager, City of Encinitas)
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