Requiring Building Electrification Is Necessary
Requiring building electrification is necessary to improve health, reduce risk, ensure equity, and save money.
This coming Tuesday the Davis City Council will be asked to finalize the city’s new Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) with the goal of putting the City on the path to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2040, a goal set in 2019. Cool Davis has given input throughout the process and supports the many CAAP actions that were proposed in the draft plan; we are eager to work with the City on many aspects of implementation.
Unfortunately, the final CAAP will likely move forward without requirements for building electrification, even though these would be the most measurable actions for greenhouse gas reduction from the original draft document. The Council has instead suggested a voluntary program until 2027 as documented in the Davis Vanguard follow up article to the December Council meeting.
Voluntary efforts advancing but not enough
As of January 2020, an all-electric reach code for new construction — promoted by Valley Climate Action Center (VCAC) and adopted by the City of Davis — was passed to incentivize all-electric single-family dwellings and low-rise multi-family buildings. A builder may choose to go all-electric up front or, if they build with mixed fuels, they must implement higher energy efficiency standards and include pre-wiring for all-electric appliances. This ultimately makes the all-electric option cost effective and allows builders to avoid the expenses associated with natural gas infrastructure. Households all over Davis are already retrofitting their existing houses to all-electric.
The 2022 California Energy Commission Energy Code encourages efficient electric heat pumps, establishes electric-ready requirements for new homes, expands solar photovoltaic and battery storage standards, strengthens ventilation standards, and more. Buildings whose permit applications are applied for on or after January 1, 2023, must comply with the 2022 Energy Code. Read more here.
Nearly 1000 homes replace natural gas based hot water or heating/cooling systems every year in our community! Cool Davis has been working with households in Davis for over a decade and applauds those who choose to make the switch; but voluntary efforts will never be enough.
Davis property owners and residents are not now and will not in the future be exempt from climate impacts. Every day we are losing opportunities to help our community save money, improve home air quality, reduce our share and risk of climate impacts, and gain access to the benefits of all electric systems. Inaction is unwise and unnecessary and will lead to substantial negative impacts for property owners and residents in our community.
To quote Mayor Arnold from the December Council meeting:
“We’re running out of time in California in which you’ll even be able to put in a new gas furnace. Eventually they’re not going to be sold here anymore. Eventually the infrastructure we rely on is not going to be here and be supported anymore and, at some point, it’s going to be taken out. So, what this plan does is, it says, ‘Let’s get the ball rolling on that.’”
He added that he would suggest to those in the real estate industry “that if you’re telling a client, ‘put in a new gas furnace, put in a new gas water heater,’ you’re doing them a disservice because the cost to get the gas in there, to use it, is going to start going way up.
“As fewer and fewer people use it [gas], they’re going to start charging more just for the upkeep of the gas lines. You’re going to start seeing it where 10 years maybe, 15 years, or so, it’s going to be kind of foolish to buy (from) the last guy out there trying to sell you a gas furnace.
“So, what do we do as the city and as citizens and homeowners… knowing that that’s coming?” Arnold asked. “Are we going to be the last holdouts that are saying, ‘You’re going to pry my gas furnace out of my very cold dead hands’ or do we accept that this is coming and start moving the ball forward?”
Electrification of our homes is a necessary change
The City, local businesses, and residents don’t have time or money to waste on already obsolete systems. Residents here and in communities all over our state are moving forward on eliminating natural gas and we can, too. Some reasons why it’s necessary include:
- Natural gas is primarily methane with a global warming potential 27 to 30 times greater than carbon dioxide
- Leakage inside our homes contributes to unhealthy air quality
- Gas storage systems fail, like the catastrophic leak in Aliso Canyon in Southern California and the explosion in San Bruno in 2010
- Natural gas makes up an estimate 10% of our total greenhouse gas emissions so removing its use is essential in reaching our goals
Our Cool Davis Energy Task Force industry experts agree. Making the switch to all-electric homes is necessary! Read more about some of the challenges and recent community discussions in this recent Cool Davis article.
We have the choice to be ready
Let’s be ready. Electric systems lend themselves to energy management strategies and technology that can help us weather the weather! Electric homes with internal, local, or regional backup and other energy management tools like smart panels, that may allow homeowners to avoid costly amperage upgrades, will be better protected in the long run from energy outages and fossil fuel market anomalies like the war in Ukraine.
We recognize the challenges of 1) easier panel upgrades 2) decarbonizing electricity, 3) ensuring grid reliability, and 4) installing electric home appliances. But waiting for the first three of these to be solved before we move on the fourth, installation, will result in unnecessary losses for households that choose to keep their natural gas infrastructure for another 20 years.
Those with more risk or barriers to action must have access and support
Rental properties serving lower income and student households will suffer the most from any delay in moving to all electric. They will be stuck with dirty and old natural gas systems and be subject to ever increasing prices using the least efficient appliances. Their buildings will be less able to engage in effective energy management during heat waves.
Households with special barriers to action must be provided with a pathway forward. There are solutions to resolve unique building problems like panel limitations, sizing of some underground lines and gas/electric line location conflicts. With the help of City building officials, experts, contractors and yes, even PG&E we can work together to eliminate these barriers.
We can choose to reduce our risk and invest in the future
Natural gas systems will be steadily decommissioned over the next 10 to 15 years. While the conversion to electric costs extra dollars and time at first, electric heat pump systems are already cost effective and more energy efficient. As our local power provider Valley Clean Energy (VCE) moves to cleaner energy sources, all-electric customers will not only save more money but will more easily become zero emissions.
Some of us have an obligation to work harder to do our share and more
Affluent communities like Davis have higher climate debt that necessitates quicker action. Some of us have been using more resources for a long time and owe more back to our community and the planet than others living with less.
We have the resources to make a plan and get it done
With local, state, and federal subsidies in place for the next 10 years, now is the time to replace natural gas space and water heating systems and other appliances when they fail. Cool Davis’s Make a Plan program focuses on replacement planning for when an appliance dies a natural death. Planning means you don’t have to be caught in an emergency situation! We advise working with a contractor to plan to replace systems before a crisis. Cool Davis is ready to work with the City to fully implement this program.
Cool Davis has been the City’s partner in developing programs to support households in this transition to all electric, including conservation and efficiency measures. We are ready to scale those up. We are also committed to working with the City on designing and implementing educational tools, resources, and messaging to support voluntary actions.
Let’s move forward
However, as the Council moves forward on the CAAP this Tuesday, we are hoping they will re-consider and their staff to move as fast as possible to a mandatory replacement program rather than wait three years according to the time frame they set last December.
Let’s roll up our sleeves, get real data, take expert advice, and fix the problems that some property owners face. We can easily exempt these properties until we have that done!
Let’s work as fast as possible to establish a requirement for property owners who are able. They can do what we already know is feasible, healthy, and cost effective when they replace their appliances.
Let’s do our part to reduce Davis’s emissions now instead of later!
City of Davis Council agenda and CAAP final document
Cool Davis related articles
Smart Panels Manage Loads
The Electrification Path to Our Fossil Free Future
Council Members Favor Voluntary Approach to Home Electrification
Slow and Steady: The Transition to an All-Electric Home
Other homeowner stories
Cool Davis home electrification resources
All-Electric Heat Pumps FAQs (highly recommended!)
The Electrification Path to Our Fossil Free Future by Chris Granger
Cool Davis Home Energy webpage
Turn Off the Carbon Pump and Turn on the Heat Pump! Heat Pumps Explained in Basic Terms by Kristin Heinemeier
Cool Davis Understanding My Home Worksheet Final
Cool Davis All-Electric Planning Guide Final
Cool Davis HVAC Common Terms
Cool Davis Working w Contractors Cheat Sheet Final
Cool Davis Contractor Bid Comparison Table
Visit our Ways to Save webpage for utility bill assistance programs and incentives.
Read about new federal home energyincentives: Inflation Reduction Act of 2022: Actually a Climate Busting Bill by Michael Kluk
Summary of new federal home energy incentives available late in 2023:
- Increases the credit for energy efficient home improvements such as added insulation, from 10% to 30%, and extends them through 2032.
- Expands the credit to cover the cost of home energy audits up to $150 and electrical panel upgrades up to $600.
- For residents that fall below 150 percent of an area’s median income, establishes a rebate program of up to $14,000 per household including $8,000 for heat pumps, $1,750 for heat pump water heaters, and $840 for electric stoves. Also includes rebates for improvements to electrical panels or wiring and home insulation or sealant.
Move your money to a credit union or ethical bank! Credit unions usually donate to projects that strengthen local communities, and ethical banks make a commitment to support good causes. Green America Bank For Good BankTrack and Mighty Deposits are all great resources to find ethical banks!
LEARN MORE with Cathy Becker of Green America, Wednesday, November 15 at 6pm PST online. Our moderator will be Rekha Vaitla, Cool Davis board member and officer at CalSTRS.
Sign up here: www.cooldavis.org/2023/11/02/green-finances-banking-and-credit-cards-panel-yolo-earth-day-pledge/
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