Berkeley first city in California to ban natural gas in new buildings

The city of Berkeley will no longer allow natural gas pipes in many new buildings starting Jan. 1, 2020. It’s the first city in California to pass such a law, officials said. #savingenergyathome

The voted unanimously Tuesday night in favor of the legislation, put forward by downtown  office and council co-sponsors Cheryl Davila, Ben Bartlett and Sophie Hahn.

Public support was also unanimous during 45 minutes of comment from community members and representatives of the University of California’s Office of the President (UCOP), energy giant PG&E and the Sierra Club, among others who spoke。

UCOP Associate Director of Sustainability Ryan Bell told officials UC is on board with the idea and already has a policy, as of July 1, to  in most new facilities。 The university has all-electric buildings — from labs and dormitories to office space — going up around the state “in all climate zones。”

“This is proving to be a cost-effective way to meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals, saving money in all building types,” Bell said. “Having a strong policy is essential to overcoming ‘business as usual’ in development practices and encourage the next generation of buildings being constructed.”

and will fall short of its ultimate goal of net zero emissions by 2050.”

— gas piping to heat water, space, food, etc. — except for specific building systems that have not yet been modeled for all-electric design” by the state, according to the council report on the ordinance.

The new law would apply only to building types that have been reviewed and analyzed by the California Energy Commission. Each time the state expands its models and analyses, according to the way the ordinance was designed, the city will be able to update its law without returning to council for a new vote.

Natural gas may be allowed in new projects if an applicant can show that “it is not physically feasible to construct the building” without it, according to the ordinance language。 New construction must be built so it can be converted to all-electric in the future, however。

The new ordinance includes exemptions for internal  (those that are built inside an existing home) as well as projects that the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board or planning staff determine are in the public interest。 The law includes a recommendation for a two-year staff position, which would be paid for using the city’s 。 (The position could be extended once the city sees how the pilot effort goes, staff said。)

Harrison’s presentation included a fondue demonstration by a staffer who set up an electric induction burner, then melted chocolate and dipped fresh strawberries into it. To show how safe the burner was, the staffer placed a sheet of paper between the burner and a pot to prove that the paper would not catch fire as the chocolate melted. The scent of chocolate filled the room as Harrison completed her initial remarks, causing no small amount of distraction.