California Construction News staff writer
Milpitas is the latest California city to ban natural gas in all new buildings with two policies approved by city council last week.
Approvals require a higher number of electric vehicle charging stations in the city and an all-electric mandate on new construction for homes and commercial spaces.
Renovations that replace or add to more than 50% of a building are included.
According to a city report, in Climate Zone 4 which includes Milpitas, constructing an average size all-electric single-family home is generally about $6,000 less costly than building a mixed-fuel home. Most of the savings come from not having to install gas infrastructure. This is also true for all-electric multifamily midrise, medium offices, medium retail and small hotel construction.
However, the new code will increase construction costs for the installation of EV infrastructure in multifamily projects with shared parking.
Speakers at a Jan. 14 council meeting urged councilmembers to approve the reach code and reject a request from Bloom energy for an exemption to continue allowing gas pipelines around new buildings.
Regulations are largely based on the model codes developed by Silicon Valley Clean Energy which have been vetted through research and public review. Staff also incorporated adjustments as a result of stakeholder input from the Milpitas community.
Officials say Milpitas is providing “pathways/options that offer a more aggressive but balanced approach to newly constructed residential and non-residential projects for electrification and EV charging infrastructure in response to state mandates for greenhouse gas emission reductions and carbon free electricity.”
Building emissions of GHG account for about 35-40 per cent of total GHG emissions and transportation accounts for 50 per cent.
“The need for all-electric standards for new construction and enhanced EV charging infrastructure is compelling. Elimination of natural gas usage through the use of allelectric standards for new construction would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions at an accelerated rate through the adoption of the reach codes.
One concern raised during public inquiries was the potential impact on the electric grid.
“Burning fossil fuels has greatly accelerated global warming which is a significant cause of grid alerts from overheated electrical infrastructure,” staff said in response to the concern. “The all electric reach codes for new construction together with solar PV with battery backup will lessen peak demand at critical times of the day when the use of electricity is highest, which will significantly lessen the impact on the grid.”