Building Decarbonization

Clean-Building Rules Save Money While Preventing Smog and Reducing Greenhouse Gases

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Natural gas has been in short supply in Los Angeles since the 2015 blowout in the Aliso Canyon storage field and the 2017 explosion of one of the few pipelines that brings it into the Los Angeles area [1]. The pipeline is still out of action two years later, costing Californians an extra billion dollars so far, according to the LA Times [2].

The LA Times also notes smog has been on the rise in recent years in Los Angeles, exceeding the legal limit for months on end this year and the past two years, contributing to an increase in asthma and premature deaths [3]. The South Coast Air Quality Management District says getting smog under control, and in particular meeting the 2015 8-Hour National Ambient Air Quality standard for ozone of 70 parts per billion (ppb), will require even higher energy efficiency and more zero-emission equipment and appliances than currently planned [4, 5]. 

Mayor Garcetti 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” [6], and set a goal of new-building decarbonization by 2021 [7].

One way to decarbonize buildings is via the building energy code. The state updates this code every three years. Cities may set higher efficiency goals if they wish, as long as they can show that their local code changes are cost-effective. [8]

LADWP has also already completed its own cost-effectiveness study showing that requiring new low-rise residential buildings to use highly efficient zero-emissions appliances will save homeowners money [9].  A study by E3 also shows that this the lowest-cost way for California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings [10]. 

The city has several other options to encourage or require zero-emissions new buildings:

  • It could offer incentives (as Sacramento does [11])
  • 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 [14]).

 

Footnotes

  1. https://www.larchmontbuzz.com/featured-stories-larchmont-village/ladwp-says-gas-pipeline-blowout-means-strong-need-to-conserve-this-winter/
  2. https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-aliso-canyon-gas-pipeline-explosion-20190711-story.html
  3. https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-smog-southern-california-20190701-story.html
  4. http://www.aqmd.gov/docs/default-source/clean-air-plans/air-quality-management-plans/2016-air-quality-management-plan/final-2016-aqmp/executive-summary.pdf
  5. http://www.aqmd.gov/docs/default-source/clean-air-plans/air-quality-management-plans/2016-air-quality-management-plan/final-2016-aqmp/chapter8.pdf
  6. https://www.lamayor.org/statement-mayor-garcetti-results-county-public-health-testing-porter-ranch
  7. http://plan.lamayor.org/sites/default/files/pLAn_2019_final.pdf
  8. https://ww2.energy.ca.gov/title24/2016standards/ordinances/
  9. https://www.ladwpnews.com/meeting-californias-climate-change-goals-through-building-electrification/
  10. https://www.sierraclub.org/articles/2019/06/study-transitioning-california-gas-could-lower-costs-and-prioritize-low-income
  11. https://www.smud.org/en/Going-Green/Smart-Homes
  12. https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-07-30/berkeley-natural-gas-ban
  13. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_kyeXNXYX8LNiNCf0R00zeGGygCluCNE/view
  14. https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/news/seattle-mayor-proposes-heating-oil-tax-to-push-electrification/560564/

 

Updated 27 Aug 2019; from https://www.ncsa.la/advocacy_building_decarbonization


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