Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Windsor’s fledgling natural gas ban is under legal fire from developers who argue its new mandate will increase costs for future homeowners and fails to account for the continued potential of widespread electricity shut-offs imposed by PG&E.
Two lawsuits filed by Sonoma County developers last week ask a judge to block Windsor’s requirement that most new homes use electric appliances for cooking and heating instead of natural gas technology. The court fights could shape future development in Windsor and ripple out to Santa Rosa, where the City Council enacted a similar ban earlier this month.
The suits claim Windsor’s rule violates state environmental law, glosses over the dangers of increased generator use by residents of gas-free homes and ignores some research showing higher utility bills for those who live in all-electric homes.
The suits cite PG&E’s recent electricity shut-offs and the 2018 Camp fire in Butte County — apparently sparked by the utility’s power equipment — to bolster claims that banning natural gas is unwise.
Read more at: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10363925-181/lawsuits-by-developers-challenge-windsors
Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Homebuilders unhappy with Santa Rosa’s plans to prohibit most new homes from relying on natural gas voiced concerns Thursday that efforts to require electric appliances are moving too fast.
The city, one of dozens in California that could require new homes up to three stories to be all-electric, held a meeting to solicit feedback from local homebuilders before a City Council study session Tuesday.
The council has yet to vote on the issue, but the natural-gas ban’s inclusion in city discussions of building codes taking effect in 2020 has stirred up some in the building community who fear a hasty process could elicit negative reactions from customers who prefer gas-fueled stoves, fireplaces and heaters.
“We’re kind of assuming this is a done deal,” said Keith Christopherson, a prominent North Bay builder. “And I gotta tell you, the response that we’ve gotten from people is that they’re really P.O.’d.”
The push to ban gas appliances — a step already taken by Berkeley and being given serious consideration by other locales including Windsor, Petaluma and Cloverdale — is connected to California’s aspiration to eliminate or offset all carbon emissions by 2045. That will necessarily involve ending the use of natural gas in buildings. Eliminating its use in new homes is a first step, while retrofitting existing buildings is a distant but implicit goal.
New state building codes set to take effect Jan. 1 already include a standard requirement for new homes to include solar panel arrays.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10063618-181/santa-rosa-homebuilders-urge-city?ref=related
Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Starting in early 2020, plans for most new Santa Rosa homes likely won’t include natural gas stoves, fireplaces, furnaces and water heaters.
The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday voted 6-0 to require the exclusive use of electric appliances in most new residential construction below four stories. The measure, which will need a second vote of approval and the California Energy Commission’s backing in the coming weeks, will put the city in the company of Windsor, Berkeley and other local governments across California that have passed a type of natural gas ban in the name of curbing climate change.
The council’s vote came after PG&E shut off electricity to prevent wildfires four times in October, plunging thousands of Sonoma County homes into darkness and raising questions about the wisdom of eliminating natural gas from the range of possible home power sources.
But council members, who made confronting global heating a top priority earlier this year, didn’t waver from their pursuit of an all-electric requirement, which is more stringent than state law requires. Their decision was backed by supporters of climate action such as Chris Thompson, vice president of the Oakmont Democratic Club.
“We are in a state of emergency. We are running out of time,” Thompson said. “Electric homes are the future we need for ourselves, and especially for our children and our grandchildren.”
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10301069-181/santa-rosa-moves-forward-on
Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Marlena and Barry Hirsch have found numerous rays of sunshine since the Tubbs fire of October 2017 destroyed their Santa Rosa-area home and took out about 40 trees on their property, mostly black oaks.
The Hirsches had previously thought about adding solar panels to their roof, but a technician who visited their Mark West Springs home told them the canopy overhead was too dense. Looking up in the early phases of their rebuilding process, they saw a lot more sunshine and realized they could go ahead and add photovoltaic cells to their new home, which they moved into last October.
They didn’t stop there, outfitting their home with an induction stove and electric appliances to heat and cool their water and space, as well as an electric car. They didn’t bother with hooking up their new home with natural gas lines or a propane tank, which fueled their old home.
“We went for the whole package in this house,” said Barry Hirsch, who said he and his wife were fueled by a desire to power their home and transportation with greener energy. He acknowledged that their life situation is favorable to making such a change: He’s a retired homebuilder, and the couple have good insurance coverage and no mortgage or minor children.
Homes like theirs could soon become the norm in the North Bay and in dozens of California municipalities poised to ban natural gas infrastructure in new houses by requiring most to use electric appliances.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10014958-181/santa-rosa-and-other-cities
Susie Cagle, THE GUARDIAN
Berkeley this week became the first city in the United States to ban natural, fossil gas hook-ups in new buildings.
The landmark ordinance was passed into law on Tuesday, after being approved unanimously by the city council the previous week amid resounding public support.
Although Berkeley may be pushing the vanguard, the city is hardly alone. Governments across the US and Europe are looking at strategies to phase out gas. In California alone, dozens of cities and counties are considering eliminating fossil fuel hook-ups to power stoves and heat homes in new buildings, while California state agencies pencil out new rules and regulations that would slash emissions.
Natural gas, it seems, has become the new climate crisis frontline.
Berkeley’s ordinance, which goes into effect on 1 January, will ban gas hook-ups in new multi-family construction, with some allowances for first-floor retail and certain types of large structures.
The reasons behind the decision are multifold. Energy use in buildings accounts for about 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in California. If the state is to meet its goal of 100% zero-carbon energy by 2045, the gas will have to go.
Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/23/berkeley-natural-gas-ban-environment
Laura Neish, Mike Turgeon and Kevin Conway, 350SONOMA
On Thursday, February 21st, the Santa Rosa City Council made the wise and bold decision to elevate their Climate Action Plan (CAP) to a Tier 1 priority level. Other priorities at this top level are Financial Stability, Housing, Recovery and Resilience, and Homelessness. In addition to Tier 1 status, expected climate actions by the council this year now include passing the electric-ready ordinance on new construction, forming a Council sub-committee on climate to project manage CAP implementation, and obtaining a cost analysis for the city to go Evergreen, Sonoma Clean Power’s 100% renewable energy program. These are key decisions regarding climate and now climate activists must hold the Council to their statements. At one time, Santa Rosa was a state leader and advocate for Climate Action. In fact, President Obama designated Sonoma County as a ‘climate champion,’ one of only 17 such designations in the entire country.
In 2012, Santa Rosa developed and approved a Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) and a Municipal Climate Action Plan (MCAP) in 2013. Unfortunately, the CCAP has languished for a number of years, largely due to the fact that no city department assumed responsibility for it’s implementation and when an implementation team was finally formed, it met infrequently. While there has been good progress in addressing the Municipal CAP, very little has been done to effectively address the Community CAP. Also, while the CCAP was a comprehensive document for 2012, a time when the climate crisis was not as recognizable to the majority of the population, we are obviously in a different place now and the CAP will require an update as funds allow.
Since the 2017 Santa Rosa fires, the Friends of the Climate Action Plan (FoCAP) have met regularly with council members asking them to take bold action regarding the climate. In October of last year (FoCAP) succeeded in attaining a public study session reporting on the status of both the Municipal and Community CAPs. That report revealed how far behind the city is toward reaching their GHG reduction goals. Fortunately, at that meeting, a motion was made and seconded to consider an all-electric ready ordinance and amended to also include a cost analysis for the city to go Evergreen. As it turned out, this motion was relegated as a ‘report item’ and was never agendized for a council discussion, public debate and vote. To the climate community these moves seem woefully incremental in the face of our impending crisis; however, this current Council is to be commended for paying attention to the public’s concern.
Mike Turgeon, CENTER FOR CLIMATE PROTECTION
In a marathon study session on Tuesday, October 23rd, the Santa Rosa City Council, at the urging of the Friends of the Climate Action Plan (FoCAP), received a long-overdue update on the progress of the 2012 Municipal and Community Climate Action Plans. The Climate Action Plan implementation team (CAP-IT) has not met since the Santa Rosa fires and accomplishing its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now is crucial.
After the session, the Council moved to put a discussion for an “electric-ready” building ordinance on a future agenda. Electric ready means having 220/240 volt outlets and the appropriate size wiring to accommodate electric appliances such as heat pump water heaters, heat pumps for heating/cooling, induction stoves and so on.
The infrastructure for natural gas would still be in place, but electric ready homes will be ‘future-proof,’ thus avoiding costly electrical upgrades when California begins to require a fuel switch from natural gas to “electrifying everything.” Homeowners can simply swap out gas appliances for the new, efficient electric appliances. The additional costs to make a home electric ready is roughly 0.1 percent of a home’s cost for labor and materials if done as part of the original build. It would be much more expensive for a homeowner to have to retrofit these electrical features.
The minimal cost of electric-ready will not affect the price of a new home since new home prices are based on what the market will bear, not how much wires, cables and assorted materials cost.
A Santa Rosa electric-ready ordinance would be a first in the state of California and perhaps the rest of the country. This ordinance would be a good first step toward getting away from natural gas entirely.
Read more at https://climateprotection.org/santa-rosa-city-council-moves-toward-innovative-electric-ready-building-ordinance/