San Francisco Commits to All-Electric New Homes and Buildings as Movement Gains Steam
City is the latest in the nation to join growing trend of building electrification to cut climate pollution, address childhood asthma, and make buildings safer
Today the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to usher the city into the all-electric era. Under the new ordinance, residential and commercial buildings must submit building applications that will design and build without any fossil gas infrastructure beginning June 2021. San Francisco joins a historic wave of California cities that have opted for all-electric new buildings in the last year, rather than locking their cities into a future of fossil gas infrastructure. These cities at the forefront include San Jose, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Mountain View, Santa Rosa, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Richmond. The final vote this week cemented the measure after the ordinance cleared a key San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote last week.
All-electric homes and buildings, which use non-polluting appliances like heat pumps to heat water and induction stoves to cook, can protect both our climate and our health. Burning fossil fuels in homes and buildings generates 560 million tons of climate pollution each year — one tenth of total U.S. emissions. Moving on from gas stoves in particular can protect kids’ health, as children who grow up in homes with gas stoves are 42% more likely to develop asthma symptoms.
“With climate change beating down our door in California, the city of San Francisco is looking ahead and leaving fossil gas in the past. The city’s historic commitment to clean, all-electric new homes will help safeguard both our future and our lungs,” said Matt Vespa, clean energy attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign. “Now, it’s time for Governor Newsom’s administration to deliver these public health benefits to every Californian.”
“Today’s vote to eliminate the dangers of natural gas from future buildings is the kind of bold action I envisioned when my colleagues joined me in declaring a climate emergency last year,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman who sponsored the ordinance. “I’m so thankful for the passion and urgency that the community and environmental advocates brought to this effort, and I’m proud that San Francisco is leading the decarbonization movement in California and beyond.”
Most Californians want to stop burning fossil gas in their homes, according to a March 2020 poll done by FM3. When presented with a choice, 70% of Californians would not only choose to go with all-electric appliances, but would also support policymakers that encourage the state’s transition off gas — and that support crosses gender, age, and political lines. Now, pressure is mounting at the state level to embrace all-electric buildings and homes in the California Energy Commission’s 2022 building energy efficiency code.
“Burning natural gas in our buildings represents over a third of San Francisco’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Now that we’re phasing out gas in new construction, we can open the door to going all-electric in existing homes and buildings. Tackling this equitably and cost effectively will be the challenge of our time, but scientists are clear that we cannot afford to wait,” said Daniel Tahara with the SF Climate Emergency Coalition. “We’re excited to continue our work with partners to establish a city hub and fund to transition communities off natural gas at an emergency pace.”
“Burning gas in stoves and other appliances produces indoor air pollution dangerous for kids’ health. Children are especially at risk of experiencing the worst impacts of natural gas in our homes, with gas stoves raising the likelihood that a child will develop asthma symptoms by 42%. Today’s historic ordinance in San Francisco for all-electric new buildings is a line in the sand — we simply don’t have to have polluting appliances in our homes anymore,” said Dr. Lisa Patel, Bay Area pediatrician and policy lead at Stanford’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research.
All-electric construction leaves the risk of leaks and gas explosions in the past, which is especially important in earthquake-prone California where up to half the fires after an earthquake are linked to gas lines and gas leaks. Californians can save money in the process, as studies by utilities and experts have found that building all-electric will reduce the cost of new construction by $6,000 (single family home) or $1,500 (per unit in an apartment building).
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