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Del Mar may be next to ban gas in buildings

Even gas stoves, which Solana Beach did not forbid

San Diego home energy sources
San Diego home energy sources

Del Mar may be the next city after Solana Beach, Encinitas, and Carlsbad to ban gas hookups in new construction.

On April 18, the same day the city heard a presentation on San Diego County's draft decarbonization plan, Del Mar's Sustainability Advisory Committee spoke about why they recommend new construction be all-electric.

"This is [the committee’s] top priority for the city council’s consideration," said vice chair Anne Feeney.

A program lets people try out a free loaner induction stovetop for three weeks.

Delayed by the pandemic, the issue is back with new urgency as the region scrambles to catch up with climate change politics. California will require full decarbonization by 2045, and buildings are the second highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state after cars and trucks.

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They are one of four pathways in the county's plan to decarbonize, said Murtaza Baxamusa, the program manager for regional sustainability. The others are transportation, electricity and land use.

Even if every city in San Diego did everything their climate action plan calls for, it would not be enough, Baxamusa said. Transportation is still far off track. That's why climatists call for regional collaboration, for example, on countywide electric vehicle charging stations.

Del Mar would model its ordinance after one passed last fall in Encinitas; the first in the county to adopt an all-electric building ordinance, known as a “reach code” because it exceeds California’s existing building energy standards.

Del Mar's ordinance would be stricter than the one passed by Solana Beach, where council members were unwilling to part with gas stoves, considered better for cooking.

As proposed, the ordinance would only affect new construction, including major remodels. "We're not taking away anyone's current gas stove or water heater," Feeney added.

For those wanting to test drive an electric stovetop, a program made available to county residents through the San Diego Green Building Council lets people try out a free loaner induction stovetop for three weeks.

Improving indoor air quality is another benefit of going electric. Feeney said. Gas stoves release fumes that can have health impacts like asthma. It's also an equity issue, she says, because poorer residents will have more difficulty funding a retrofit of their gas appliances. Or, they may live in small apartments where there's less ventilation.

Health and fairness have gotten far less attention than pollution as the state inches towards electrification of buildings, starting with new construction.

"Those are things we haven't priced properly," said committee member Jeanne Nilmini Silva-send, USD professor in the energy field.

The council agreed that adding more solar will bring costs down. They directed the committee to work on a draft ordinance that details its specific impact on Del Mar, the level of homeowner pushback (especially where costly remodels are planned), and ways to encourage more people to add solar.

According to the decarbonization report, the region can produce the projected 2050 energy demand with local utility-scale onshore wind and solar, but additional energy storage infrastructure is needed to supply reliable renewable energy.

It's only the beginning, as far as solutions are concerned, Baxamusa said. The county is still trying to understand the problems and figure out the funding. Electrifying buildings throughout the county's 19 jurisdictions is an important step, but that, too, is just getting started.

"It would really help to have a consistent standard across the region."

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San Diego home energy sources
San Diego home energy sources

Del Mar may be the next city after Solana Beach, Encinitas, and Carlsbad to ban gas hookups in new construction.

On April 18, the same day the city heard a presentation on San Diego County's draft decarbonization plan, Del Mar's Sustainability Advisory Committee spoke about why they recommend new construction be all-electric.

"This is [the committee’s] top priority for the city council’s consideration," said vice chair Anne Feeney.

A program lets people try out a free loaner induction stovetop for three weeks.

Delayed by the pandemic, the issue is back with new urgency as the region scrambles to catch up with climate change politics. California will require full decarbonization by 2045, and buildings are the second highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state after cars and trucks.

Sponsored
Sponsored

They are one of four pathways in the county's plan to decarbonize, said Murtaza Baxamusa, the program manager for regional sustainability. The others are transportation, electricity and land use.

Even if every city in San Diego did everything their climate action plan calls for, it would not be enough, Baxamusa said. Transportation is still far off track. That's why climatists call for regional collaboration, for example, on countywide electric vehicle charging stations.

Del Mar would model its ordinance after one passed last fall in Encinitas; the first in the county to adopt an all-electric building ordinance, known as a “reach code” because it exceeds California’s existing building energy standards.

Del Mar's ordinance would be stricter than the one passed by Solana Beach, where council members were unwilling to part with gas stoves, considered better for cooking.

As proposed, the ordinance would only affect new construction, including major remodels. "We're not taking away anyone's current gas stove or water heater," Feeney added.

For those wanting to test drive an electric stovetop, a program made available to county residents through the San Diego Green Building Council lets people try out a free loaner induction stovetop for three weeks.

Improving indoor air quality is another benefit of going electric. Feeney said. Gas stoves release fumes that can have health impacts like asthma. It's also an equity issue, she says, because poorer residents will have more difficulty funding a retrofit of their gas appliances. Or, they may live in small apartments where there's less ventilation.

Health and fairness have gotten far less attention than pollution as the state inches towards electrification of buildings, starting with new construction.

"Those are things we haven't priced properly," said committee member Jeanne Nilmini Silva-send, USD professor in the energy field.

The council agreed that adding more solar will bring costs down. They directed the committee to work on a draft ordinance that details its specific impact on Del Mar, the level of homeowner pushback (especially where costly remodels are planned), and ways to encourage more people to add solar.

According to the decarbonization report, the region can produce the projected 2050 energy demand with local utility-scale onshore wind and solar, but additional energy storage infrastructure is needed to supply reliable renewable energy.

It's only the beginning, as far as solutions are concerned, Baxamusa said. The county is still trying to understand the problems and figure out the funding. Electrifying buildings throughout the county's 19 jurisdictions is an important step, but that, too, is just getting started.

"It would really help to have a consistent standard across the region."

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