Cities in California must move towards a zero carbon economy by midcentury in order to prevent the most devastating impacts of climate change to our communities, according to California’s Fourth Climate Assessment. Climate impacts in San Diego include major changes to the environment that affect our coastline, including sea level rise.
The City of San Diego has set a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2035. This shift requires a focus on the building sector. Buildings constitute at least 12% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, and most buildings are constructed such that they rely on natural gas or a mix of natural gas and other energy sources. 35 California cities and counting have taken action since 2018 to reduce or eliminate the use of natural gas in new construction in order to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from the building stock.
‘Electrification’ is a process which transitions buildings from a reliance on natural gas fuel towards more renewable energies distributed by the electric grid. Given the San Diego Region’s progressive actions towards addressing the climate crisis, the Surfrider Foundation San Diego County believes that our cities must aggressively pursue electrification.
We believe electrification will be best achieved at the local government level through reach code updates that require all new commercial and residential buildings to be fully electric. Reach codes allow cities to establish code that goes above and beyond statewide building code. Implementing a reach code requiring electrification is appropriate because of the overwhelming threats that our current reliance on natural gas in buildings poses through emissions, health and safety risks, and economic burden.
All of the following contribute to our support for electrification in San Diego:
- Building new fossil fuel infrastructure today that will last for decades does not allow us to achieve a carbon-free economy by midcentury.
- While emissions from the electrical grid have decreased, greenhouse gas emissions from buildings have increased in the last three years in California.
- Natural Gas is one of the top 3 sources of greenhouse gasses in San Diego County.
- Electrification drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions from single family homes within one year.
Air Pollution/ Health
- 12 million Californians regularly breathe indoor air that fails to meet EPA standards for outdoor air quality due to the burning of natural gas.
- Buildings in California produce air pollution 5 times greater than power plants in the state.
- Homes with gas stoves can contain up to 4 times the amount of nitrous oxide than homes with electric stoves, often resulting in levels of indoor air pollution that would be illegal outdoors.
- All-electric, single-family homes have a lower net present cost than new mixed-fuel homes.
- An electric home constructed today compared to a home using natural gas results in additional annual cost savings every year.
- Electrification would create a quick net increase of jobs, even accounting for losses in the fossil fuel industry.
- Highly efficient all-electric equipment, such as heat pumps, are 3-5 times more efficient than conventional gas and water heaters. Electrification results in savings for multifamily and single family homes.
- California’s largest utility, PG&E, supports electrification in order to “ avoid investments in new gas assets that might later prove underutilized as local governments and the state work together to realize long-term decarbonization objectives.”
- Natural gas storage sites can be hazardous. The 2015 Aliso Canyon gas leak had a measurable impact on global emissions as well as the short-term health of 18 million residents in Los Angeles County due to SoCalGas’s inability to predict or control infrastructure issues at one of the United States’ largest natural gas storage facility. The storage site remains a hazard.
- In 2010, a gas explosion in San Bruno tragically took the lives of 8 people, injured 60, and exposed many residents to air pollutants known to cause cancer as well as neurological and respiratory effects.
- Natural gas contributes to toxic air quality that has a disproportionate impact on lower income families living in small spaces, with more occupants, and less ventilation.