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Capitol Building in Sacramento

More Gas Bans

The combustion of fossil fuels in buildings is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions in California. Science has proven that increased GHG levels of GHGs in the upper atmosphere contribute to global warming due to the greenhouse effect. In response, the state has set aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals intended to reduce the levels of GHGs in the atmosphere.

The first effort to restrict natural gas use, primarily Methane, was by the city of Berkeley in late 2019.  The ban was the first of its kind and was controversial. Since then, several cities and counties in California have adopted similar bans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

On Sept. 22nd, the city of Encinitas passed a new ordinance that will effectively eliminate the use of natural gas in new residential and commercial construction projects. The Encinitas regulation is a milestone, as it becomes the 50th city or county in California to place restrictions on natural gas. We suspect this trend will continue as local municipalities strive to meet the state’s aggressive climate protection goals.

Energy Savings Goals Now Account for Fuel-Switching

For over thirty years, California residents could not convert their homes from one energy source to another. An antiquated energy efficiency cost metric tool, called the three-prong-test, effectively prohibited homeowners from switching energy sources. The most common example was switching from natural gas to electricity. Several organizations, including Efficiency First California, worked tirelessly to overturn this legislation. Finally, after three years of conversations, the cost metrics were modified, which paved the way for electrification.

ON Sept. 23rd, 2021 –  The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) defined the energy efficiency goals for the next ten years, 2022 to 2032. The new goals include allocating a dollar amount to the benefits of several new measures such as impacts to grid loads, demand response programs, etc. Perhaps the most significant piece of this new policy is attributing financial savings to greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

In effect, this new regulation is a shout-out to program designers and administrators that GHG reductions now have fiscal value and can be factored into the total savings of energy efficiency programs. The impact of this decision is significant as the CPUC will directly support and reward energy efficiency programs focused on building electrification.

We have come a long way in a short period. For years we struggled to get the CPUC to allow fuel switching. Now they are effectively encouraging the process. We anticipate this change will result in many new rebate programs actively supporting fuel switching in buildings. The decision is another significant and positive step in transitioning California from fossil fuels like natural gas to carbon-free electricity.