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Encinitas bent on curbing home gas appliances

Stymied by the courts, city proposes incentives instead of a total ban

From the city of Encinitas
From the city of Encinitas

Encinitas is leaning electric — again. The city has introduced a modified version of an ordinance it passed in 2021 (and later suspended) that required new buildings to be all electric.

This time the focus is on efficient residential buildings and it applies to both electric and mixed fuel homes. While it doesn't ban the use of gas technologies, it will make it cheaper to build all electric.

Known as a "reach code." because it goes beyond state efficiency standards, the original ordinance put Encinitas out front on sustainable building practices; the 50th of the state's 482 cities to shuffle gas aside.

It also made them the target of developers who suggested possible litigation, mayor Tony Kranz told the city council last week. When the city first got started on the new code, they heard from real estate agents, too, who said potential buyers often turn around and leave if the kitchen is not gas appliances.

The city of Berkeley, which passed a similar ordinance in 2019, was sued by restaurants who rely on gas cooking. Their local gas ban was ruled unlawful, pre-empted by federal law, in April 2023. As other cities backed down on their ordinances, Encinitas followed suit, suspending its all-electric ordinance.

Although Berkeley appealed the ruling, in January 2024 the Ninth Circuit Court denied the appeal, and Berkeley announced it would repeal its gas ban. Given no statewide all-electric requirement on the horizon, Encinitas has been looking for other ways to spur decarbonization.

This is easier said than done. Since suspending the all-electric requirement, about 35 percent of single family and 50 percent of multifamily permits in Encinitas propose natural gas construction.

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So city officials are promoting incentives to encourage all-electric construction.

The new ordinance promotes increased energy efficiency requirements and the reach code that applies to both electric and mixed fuel homes. There would also be requirements that make it easier to switch to all electric in the future. This would be crucial, as, starting in 2030, gas heating and water heating equipment will no longer be sold in California.

Many comments the city gets on the ordinance are about cost effectiveness. The city excludes small single-family homes less than 1,500 square feet, high rise multifamily buildings of four stories or more, and nonresidential buildings. An analysis showed that for those building types, meeting the requirement might not be feasible or cost effective.

According to the California Energy Commission, all-electric construction typically costs less than mixed fuel. Studies state that a standard dual-fuel building will need a stove, air conditioning unit, furnace, water heater, and natural gas plumbing and pipeline connections. In comparison, an all-electric building will need only a stove, a heat pump and heat pump water heater.

The new code will raise the bar for those choosing gas appliances. To meet the minimum state code requirements, a mixed fuel home could have rooftop solar panels, an electric heat pump water heater and a natural gas space heating system

"Ultimately, if someone chooses to have gas appliances, it will require many additional measures, which can be costly compared to an all electric design," said Madelyn Wampler, an analyst for Encinitas' sustainability division. 


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From the city of Encinitas
From the city of Encinitas

Encinitas is leaning electric — again. The city has introduced a modified version of an ordinance it passed in 2021 (and later suspended) that required new buildings to be all electric.

This time the focus is on efficient residential buildings and it applies to both electric and mixed fuel homes. While it doesn't ban the use of gas technologies, it will make it cheaper to build all electric.

Known as a "reach code." because it goes beyond state efficiency standards, the original ordinance put Encinitas out front on sustainable building practices; the 50th of the state's 482 cities to shuffle gas aside.

It also made them the target of developers who suggested possible litigation, mayor Tony Kranz told the city council last week. When the city first got started on the new code, they heard from real estate agents, too, who said potential buyers often turn around and leave if the kitchen is not gas appliances.

The city of Berkeley, which passed a similar ordinance in 2019, was sued by restaurants who rely on gas cooking. Their local gas ban was ruled unlawful, pre-empted by federal law, in April 2023. As other cities backed down on their ordinances, Encinitas followed suit, suspending its all-electric ordinance.

Although Berkeley appealed the ruling, in January 2024 the Ninth Circuit Court denied the appeal, and Berkeley announced it would repeal its gas ban. Given no statewide all-electric requirement on the horizon, Encinitas has been looking for other ways to spur decarbonization.

This is easier said than done. Since suspending the all-electric requirement, about 35 percent of single family and 50 percent of multifamily permits in Encinitas propose natural gas construction.

Sponsored
Sponsored

So city officials are promoting incentives to encourage all-electric construction.

The new ordinance promotes increased energy efficiency requirements and the reach code that applies to both electric and mixed fuel homes. There would also be requirements that make it easier to switch to all electric in the future. This would be crucial, as, starting in 2030, gas heating and water heating equipment will no longer be sold in California.

Many comments the city gets on the ordinance are about cost effectiveness. The city excludes small single-family homes less than 1,500 square feet, high rise multifamily buildings of four stories or more, and nonresidential buildings. An analysis showed that for those building types, meeting the requirement might not be feasible or cost effective.

According to the California Energy Commission, all-electric construction typically costs less than mixed fuel. Studies state that a standard dual-fuel building will need a stove, air conditioning unit, furnace, water heater, and natural gas plumbing and pipeline connections. In comparison, an all-electric building will need only a stove, a heat pump and heat pump water heater.

The new code will raise the bar for those choosing gas appliances. To meet the minimum state code requirements, a mixed fuel home could have rooftop solar panels, an electric heat pump water heater and a natural gas space heating system

"Ultimately, if someone chooses to have gas appliances, it will require many additional measures, which can be costly compared to an all electric design," said Madelyn Wampler, an analyst for Encinitas' sustainability division. 


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