Building Decarbonization

Buildings are a leading generator of greenhouse gas emissions in Bay Area cities, and in most cases are the largest source of emissions that local governments have the ability to regulate. Buildings emit greenhouse gases primarily through the burning of natural gas for space and water heating. In addition to contributing to climate change, the use of natural gas for heating and cooking also poses a number of public safety and air quality risks to communities. Because of the state’s relatively high penetration of renewable energy and its ambitious target of having 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2045, switching building energy use to electricity from natural gas creates significant carbon savings that will grow as the grid becomes cleaner.

Local governments in the Bay Area are national leaders in efforts to cut fossil fuel use in buildings. Cities across the region have recently taken steps to decarbonize buildings by limiting or prohibiting the construction of fossil fuel infrastructure, adopting more stringent building codes, and providing incentives to assist in the purchase of cleaner appliances. Several Bay Area cities, including Berkeley, San Jose, and Menlo Park, were among the first in the nation to prohibit natural gas installations or mandate all-electric construction of certain new buildings.

BARC and its member agencies support the successful implementation of these efforts, which serve as model policies for other jurisdictions both in California and globally. 

In the summer of 2020, BARC partnered with the Building Decarbonization Coalition and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to launch the Clean Building Compass. The Clean Building Compass is an online clearinghouse of resources to assist local governments in developing and adopting building decarbonization policies.

Why Are Cities Switching from Natural Gas to All-Electric?

Cities across California are considering following the Bay Area’s lead in prohibiting natural gas in new buildings to address climate change, to save money, and to improve public health. This blog post from the Union of Concerned Scientists provides a good overview of the rationale for moving away from natural gas in buildings.

Highlights

In July 2020, BARC and its partners the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Building Decarbonization Coalition launched the Clean Building Compass, a tool to assist local governments in developing and implementing measures to reduce emissions from buildings.