Electrify Everything: Why Building Electrification is Necessary Now

Oliver Tiliouine, Member of the SanDiego350 Building Electrification Working Group and the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition

With the advanced technologies available today, Building Electrification (BE) is a feasible solution to meet State and local climate goals. It switches the power supplied to buildings from dirty fossil fuels to electricity, which is increasingly generated from renewable resources. It is time for cities to recognize that all-electric requirements reduce emissions from residential and commercial buildings, both saving energy and reducing indoor air pollution. 

BE means no gas hookups for new development projects and retrofitting existing buildings by replacing furnaces, stoves, water heaters, and clothes dryers; everything becomes electric! The major problem with gas-powered buildings are the harmful emissions from fossil fuel combustion. The largest component of natural gas is methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas (GHG). Currently, powering our buildings is responsible for 10% of California’s GHG emissions, not including gas leaks that occur during distribution.

In California, the high-powered gas industry touts renewable natural gas (RNG) as the solution to building emissions. However, RNG is almost pure methane, 25x more harmful than CO2. Any RNG that leaks out of the distribution network directly contributes to atmospheric GHGs, and therefore to warming. RNG is produced by capturing emissions from organic waste (e.g. landfills) but is not a clean fuel. RNG acts as a roadblock to development of cleaner energy, and is not simply a bridge. The United States has the technologies required to have electricity power our buildings and reduce climate-changing emissions.

SanDiego350 is working to support BE efforts in local cities. Last month, we convened the first meeting of the San Diego Building Electrification Coalition, a coalition of local organizations and businesses that support BE. The primary goals of the Coalition are to update Climate Action Plans (CAPs) to incorporate BE, pursue municipal ordinances in our region to advance BE, and to provide community education and outreach to build support for electrification.

To date, 40 Californian jurisdictions have passed ordinances either requiring or strongly encouraging all-electric in new construction projects. Some cities have gone a step further by banning new gas hook-ups. To date, Carlsbad is the only city in the San Diego region that has adopted an ordinance for building electrification. Several other local cities are looking into BE options as well. For example, the City of Encinitas recently approved an updated CAP which includes electrification of new residential and commercial buildings. 

SanDiego350 believes that now is the time to advocate for BE policies throughout our region. In order to make building electrification a top priority, we must build community support from residents and businesses for the advancement of BE in our cities. 

As a first step toward these goals, SanDiego350 hosted a webinar on December 3rd with 80+ participants. The expert panel explained how to effectively advocate for local BE policies. SanDiego350 and the Coalition are planning more educational events in early 2021. Sign up for our mailing list for updates on future events and actions to support a gas-free future in San Diego or volunteer with us here.

About Masada D

Masada Disenhouse co-founded SanDiego350 in 2011 and serves as its Executive Director. She is passionate about engaging volunteers and growing a powerful climate change movement.

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