Berkeley, California Bans Natural Gas in New Buildings

Berkeley, California recently became the first U.S. city to ban natural gas hook-ups for all new residential buildings. The step if propagated for all cities in the state could facilitate the meeting of California’s goal of shifting to net-zero carbon emissions from energy sources by 2045.

The ban was also passed into law after the city council voted in favour of it. The new ordinance is set to go into effect on January 1, 2020, and would apply to all new multi-unit construction with some exceptions. In the context, Jay Inslee, Washington Gov., who is running for President in the 2020 Democratic primary, and Steve Westly, former California state controller were among the climate action advocates who praised the city’s decision. And, Rigel Robinson, Berkeley city council member said that many cities would be content to just declare a climate emergency.

The city council found that, with the ban in place, the electricity that is used to power heating and cooking systems in homes would be 78% carbon-free. Currently, natural gas makes up around 73% of Berkeley’s emissions from buildings. Councilwoman Kate Harrison, who introduced the plan, said that in Berkeley, natural gas in buildings was responsible for 27% of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. She reiterated that the ordinance would allow a significant reduction in greenhouse gas-emitting devices and systems.

Meanwhile, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) cited that a gradual nationwide shift away from natural gas and toward electricity would be possible if the country ends its dependence on coal-powered electricity. And, Pierre Delforge, a senior scientist with the organization stated that there was a need to look at electrification policies, and the need to think about what the grid would look like in 10 or 20 years. Bruce Nilles, managing director of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a sustainable energy research firm stated that we were dealing with an existential crisis and to reduce fossil fuel emissions cities needed to get creative and think of new ways.

It is reported that energy use in buildings accounts for 25% of California’s carbon emissions. And, over 50 cities all over the state are considering natural gas bans on the lines of Berkeley.

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