Rincon Consultants, Inc. is a leader in climate action planning and is currently working at the forefront of building electrification.
Building Electrification – Not Just a Trend
As California continues to develop strategies toward achieving the climate goal established by Executive Order B-55-18 for statewide carbon neutrality by 2045, eliminating direct greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment has emerged as one of the key hurdles. An emerging strategy in this effort has been developed around decreasing building’s reliance on fossil fuel and transitioning towards greater reliance on electricity generated from renewable sources. Building electrification is a newer term used to identify the process of disconnecting buildings from natural gas and switching over all appliances to operate solely on electricity. The increasing prevalence of renewable energy and storage technology, and the cost-effectiveness and health benefits of building electrification are leading communities across California to make major pushes towards electrification.
The primary driver for building electrification is California’s commitment to 100% renewable power, which will result in significant progress as we strive to meet the State’s ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. The passage of Senate Bill (SB) 100 in 2018 solidified the state’s commitment to a carbon-neutral future by ensuring retail sales of electricity are 100% renewable by 2045. This means electricity used in residential and commercial buildings will become decreasingly carbon-intensive over time, eventually generating net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.
While the impetus is not to completely eliminate natural gas and other fuels from use, as they will likely continue to be needed for some industrial and manufacturing processes; there is clear evidence that building new homes and commercial buildings as all-electric is cost-effective and generates far less greenhouse gas emissions than mixed-fuel buildings. , This is why more than 40 of California’s cities have chosen to adopt ordinances and reach codes that require electrification of all new buildings. Recent ordinances have been established by Oakland, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, and Ojai.
The Modern All-Electric Home
All-electric homes bring a variety of benefits to residents, including lower energy bills, improved indoor air quality, and other features highlighted in the graphic below.
Leading Edge Experience
Rincon Consultants, Inc. is a leader in climate action planning and is currently working at the forefront of building electrification. Rincon is currently providing consulting services for multiple jurisdictions in the development of electrification reach codes and ordinances, as well as the first of its kind existing building electrification study in the City of Berkeley. Each of these serve an important role in the electrification pathway.
A “reach code” refers to a local amendment to the California Building Code and is a primary means by which jurisdictions are adopting electrification building standards. In California, local governments have the authority to amend the local Building Code Standards if the reach code meets the following requirements:
- The reach code must be at least as stringent as the statewide code,
- The reach code must be cost-effective,
- The reach code must be approved by the California Energy Commission, and
- The reach code needs to be re-approved with each Energy Code update.
The second way that electrification building standards are being adopted is through an amendment to the municipal or health and safety code. The benefit of this type of ordinance is that it does not need to be updated every three years with the building code cycle. Major cities including San Francisco and Oakland have utilized these ordinances to ban gas in new developments with few or no exceptions.
Electrification of existing buildings presents financial and equity challenges that require the study of the parcel level data in a jurisdiction. Rincon is currently working with Rocky Mountain Institute, Ecology Center, and the City of Berkeley to understand how building age, permit compliance, cost of electrification retrofits and demographics must be addressed in the electrification of existing buildings. The framework developed here can be built upon and adjusted to fit the needs of any jurisdiction seeking solutions, including building electrification, to reach the State’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. This project’s innovative financing recently received a Business Achievement Award from the Climate Change Business Journal, learn more about the project here.