While the State Energy Commission and Public Utilities Commission hold hearings about decarbonization, some California cities are moving forward adopting their own all-electric building code under what is known as a Reach Code. Reach Codes are building codes that are more advanced than those required by the state. Every three years, cities and counties across California adopt new Building Standards Code (Standards) or Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations. Cities can also choose to adopt local reach codes, on top of these Standards, at any time. The California Pool and Spa Association is working with the California Building Industry Association and Sempra Energy in opposition to these actions.
The California Building Standards Commission adopted the 2019 building codes, and now numerous cities are in the process of adopting the new codes through an official ordinance. CPSA is monitoring the adoption of these codes by reviewing the agendas of city council meetings statewide. However, the statutes governing state building codes allow cities to adopt codes that differ or are more stringent than the 2019 state codes. As such, some cities are moving forward at the behest of clean energy advocates to be the first to adopt an all-electric building code.
The town of Windsor in Northern California is one such city. Under a proposal approved by the town council this week, the city adopted an all-electric building code that will be applicable to single-family homes, detached accessory buildings, and multifamily buildings up to three stories. The ordinance will become effective on January 1, 2020.
CPSA filed comments in opposition to the proposed ordinance; however, the ordinance is being supported by Sonoma Clean Energy as well as PG&E. A study performed by PG&E in support of the ordinance indicates that single-family all-electric construction will cost, on average, $6,171 less than conventional construction using natural gas. In addition, the new code would help the town reach its goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below the 1990 community emission levels by 2020, 40% below the 1990 level by 2030, 60% below the 1990 level by 2040, and 80% below the 1990 level by 2050.
The City of Oakland and the City of Berkley have already adopted similar codes. Contrary to this movement, Sempra Energy has already obtained commitments from over 80 California cities to adopt a balanced energy portfolio which will include the continued use of natural gas.
Bottom line, the fight over the continued use and availability of natural gas for California building structures is getting very active. It will be interesting to see what happens next year when home purchasers in the town of Windsor learn they cannot install a natural gas stove to cook on or a natural gas pool heater to heat their pool or spa for an evening of relaxation.
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