California Nears Tipping Point on All-Electric Regulations for New Buildings

Greentech Media

California is readying what could be the next game-changing update to its building-performance standards.

Building-performance standards have been saving Californians energy and money for four decades. Occasionally, updates to the standards, which are reviewed every three years, yield a breakthrough. In 2019, the beneficiary was solar, with regulators approving a requirement for rooftop PV arrays on most new homes in the state.

In 2022, the game-changer is likely to be new rules to tip the market toward all-electric new construction.

Much of the work on the 2022 update to what is officially known as California’s Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards has so far been done behind the scenes by staff at the California Energy Commission. But a recent round of letters from key stakeholders signals the start of the public phase of the process.

Over the past month, letters submitted to the California Energy Commission by some of the state’s largest utilities, including Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison and Sacramento Municipal Utility District, as well as the California Community Choice Association, all carried the same message: adopt an updated energy code that accelerates the transition to all-electric buildings.

“The letters that you are seeing are basically trying to set the stage and influence that process,” Pierre Delforge, a building decarbonization expert who tracks the proceeding for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview.

Stakeholder workshops on the 2022 update are expected to be held in late August or early September. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the new standards in July 2021, and they will take effect on January 1, 2023.

Buildings are the second-largest source of carbon emissions in California, after transportation. Shifting to all-electric buildings fueled by renewable power would be a huge boost to the state’s decarbonization efforts.

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