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California City Considering All-Electric Construction Ordinance

Carlsbad, Calif., which is located in Southern California, is considering a new ordinance that would require all-electric residential construction from developers as part of the 2023 update of its Climate Action Plan.

Carlsbad, Calif.
Carlsbad, Calif.
Shutterstock/Kyle Sprague
(TNS) — Carlsbad is considering an ordinance that would require all-electric residential construction as part of the 2023 update of its Climate Action Plan.

So far, 54 cities and counties in California, including Encinitas and Solana Beach, have passed electrification ordinances, according to the San Diego Electrification Coalition.

The ordinances require water heaters, clothes dryers, space heaters and other appliances in all new construction to be electric instead of natural gas.

Electric appliances reduce the greenhouse gases that are released by burning natural gas, another name for methane. Recent studies show the toxic gas leaks more frequently than previously thought from pipes and appliances, even when correctly installed, and can be hazardous at low levels inside homes.

"This topic is just for discussion ... so we can decide if this is something we are interested in," said Councilmember Teresa Acosta, who proposed the idea at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

All-electric homes generally cost less to build because they have no gas piping systems and are more affordable to operate, according to the Electrification Coalition. Also, improved technology and more efficient electric appliances, combined with the proliferation of solar energy, are reducing the costs of electrification.

The City Council voted 3-1 last week, with Mayor Matt Hall opposed and Councilmember Peter Norby absent, to have city staffers research an electrification ordinance to include in an updated Climate Action Plan in 2023. Norby, who was out with COVID-19, has often advocated for electric vehicles and other greenhouse gas reduction measures.

Hall advocated a go-slow approach.

"This is really a national issue," Hall said. "Tonight we are looking at one piece in a puzzle. ... We really need to look at the whole conversation."

He questioned whether the electrical grid is prepared for the shift to electric vehicles that is already underway.

"This is an extremely complicated situation," Hall said. "The electrical grid isn't just Carlsbad ... it's much more than this one piece."

Councilmember Priya Bhat-Patel said she's been hearing about electrification from community members for at least a year.

"I am interested in having more information," Bhat-Patel said.

How many homes and workers would be affected, whether the necessary infrastructure is in place, what the costs would be and how ordinances have worked in other communities all would be helpful to know, she said.

A representative of the San Diego County Building Industry Association, Kelly Batten, said the building industry has concerns about the proposal.

Electric water heaters are usually more expensive than gas ones, Batten said. Costs like that would have to be passed on to homebuyers in a market where housing costs already are high.

Councilmember Keith Blackburn agreed to consider the ordinance, but noted there are two sides to the issue.

"Some people feel very comfortable having this diversified source of power to their house," Blackburn said. "It's unlikely (in a power outage) that both gas and electric will go out at the same time."

Once a city requires electrification in new construction, the next push is likely to be retrofitting, and that would be a "huge expense," he said.

© 2022 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.