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California Energy Commission Proposal Makes Important Climate Progress, But Falls Short of Widely Supported All-Electric Building Code

Proposal will reduce, but not fully eliminate, fossil fuel pollution from new buildings throughout the state

Originally published on RMI.org.

On Thursday, the California Energy Commission (CEC) released its official proposal for the 2022 California Energy Code, which, if finalized, will help advance the state toward pollution-free homes and buildings. The code would pave the way for at least one major heating appliance to be all-electric in new residential and most new commercial buildings. This is a significant improvement over the initial proposal, which required very weak electrification measures. As RMI’s earlier analyses have shown, electrification of appliances prevents significant greenhouse gas emissions.

The draft of the 2022 energy code does not require all-electric buildings, as over 200 advocates have called for, but it will require manufacturers and developers to start finding ways to reduce pollution from new buildings. Advocates are now demanding that the CEC commit publicly to an all-electric code for all new buildings in the upcoming 2025 code cycle.

Denise Grab, manager on RMI’s Carbon-Free Buildings team, said:

“The CEC’s proposal is an important step forward to reduce pollution from buildings, and we are pleased that they have recognized the critical need for electrification in new construction by supporting the electrification of a major heating appliance. That said, California still needs to do more. We know that new all-electric buildings are cheaper. We know they are healthier. Meanwhile, every new gas building in the state locks us into decades of emissions and unnecessary gas infrastructure costs. Delaying all-electric construction is a mistake. The CEC needs to commit publicly to going all-electric in the next code cycle, so that the state can stop expanding the use of expensive, dangerous, and unhealthy fossil gas.”

Jonny Kocher, an associate on RMI’s Carbon-Free Buildings team, added:

“We’re in a climate emergency. Burning fossil fuels is the cause, so we should stop putting them in buildings. This is especially true when it is cheaper and healthier to live in buildings without them. The CEC should go all-electric now, but at the very least it should commit to going all-electric in 2025.”

Background

  • Last year, RMI reported that at current emissions rates, a three-year delay in an all-electric building code for California would result in 3 million additional metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030, as well as more than $1 billion of unnecessary spending on new gas connection infrastructure.
  • According to a report by Energy Innovation, a 2025 requirement for all-electric new construction is aligned with what the buildings sector needs to do nationally to reach its climate commitment under the Paris Agreement.
  • Recent RMI analysis found that it is cheaper to build a new all-electric home, compared to building with gas, in all seven
  • U.S. cities studied. Additional analysis found that switching from a gas furnace to an efficient, electric heat pump saves carbon emissions in 99% of U.S. households.
  • RMI calculations, based on data from a new Harvard analysis released this week, show that burning gas in buildings cost California over $4.9 billion in health impact costs in 2017, the most recent data available.
 
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Since 1982, RMI (previously Rocky Mountain Institute) has advanced market-based solutions that transform global energy use to create a clean, prosperous and secure future. An independent, nonprofit think-and-do tank, RMI engages with businesses, communities and institutions to accelerate and scale replicable solutions that drive the cost-effective shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. Please visit http://www.rmi.org for more information.

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