Background on decarbonization
Decarbonization has been in the news lately . That’s a general term which means, for instance, building houses using appliances that emit no local greenhouse gas or smog-forming pollutants. Related terms include zero carbon, net-zero, or all-electric. It is a technology-neutral term that includes electric, solar, and geothermal technologies.
Los Angeles is considering decarbonization, partly because of climate change, but also because natural gas is causing local problems, e.g.:
- 2015: Aliso Canyon methane storage field blowout, raising risk of shortages 
- 2017: pipeline explosion further reduced methane supplies in Los Angeles 
- 2017: The South Coast Air Quality Management District said meeting the 70ppb ozone standard will require advanced energy efficiency and zero-emission appliances 
- 2019: pipeline still out of action, costing Californians an extra billion dollars so far 
- 2017-2019: ozone levels over 70ppb limit, increasing risk of health problems 
In response to these problems, Mayor Garcetti recently said “we must redouble our efforts to reduce our dependence on natural gas, and take this opportunity to move to a carbon-free future based on energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy” . He then set the following goals in his sustainability plan :
- 2021: new building decarbonization policy implemented
- 2030: all new buildings will be net zero carbon
- 2050: all buildings will be net zero carbon
LADWP has already released a study showing that 76 percent of new zero-emissions homes will save at least $15 per month on equipment and energy bills over the life of the equipment , and a study funded by the state found that zero-emissions construction is cost-effective .
The city has several options to encourage or require zero-emissions new buildings:
- It could update the building code to encourage them (like Palo Alto, effective 2017 )
- It could offer incentives (as Sacramento does )
- It could ban new gas connections in low-rise homes (like Berkeley, effective 1/2020 [12, 13])
- It could potentially levy a heating fuel tax (as Seattle is considering )
It could also decide to move quickly on low-rise buildings, as several cities have done. For instance, it could implement pilot incentives by January 2020, and building code changes for low rise residential construction by January 2021.
 Berkeley city council presentation on gas phaseout, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_kyeXNXYX8LNiNCf0R00zeGGygCluCNE/view
Updated 12 Aug 2019; from https://www.ncsa.la/advocacy_building_decarbonization