Buildings are responsible for a quarter of California’s greenhouse gas emissions.
In September 2018, California adopted a law to reduce these emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. As part of this effort, the state’s Public Utilities Commission is investing $435 million in building electrification programs over the next four years, with a focus on serving low-income and historically disadvantaged communities. The commission is also working to end subsidies for new gas line extensions.
Berkeley became the first municipality in the U.S. to ban gas in most new construction (starting Jan. 1, 2020), and more than 50 local governments across the state have since adopted gas bans or electrification building codes and other policies to support all-electric new construction.
Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a sweeping sustainability plan in 2019 that requires all new buildings to be “net-zero carbon” by 2030, and in May 2022 L.A.’s City Council voted to ban most gas appliances in new construction.
An ordinance adopted in June 2021 requires all new construction in Sacramento to be all-electric by 2026. All-electric homes were already becoming the default for new residential construction, and the city's local utility embedded electrification within its energy efficiency programs to ensure that low- and moderate-income households are able to go gas-free at the same rate as the rest of the population.
The nation's 10th largest city, San Jose, prohibited gas in new single-family homes and low-rise multifamily buildings starting in January 2020, and in November 2020, the City Council extended the measure to prohibit gas in almost all new construction, including commercial and high-rise residential buildings.
Denver’s City Council in November 2021 passed an ordinance that requires large commercial and multifamily buildings to slash emissions through efficiency and electrification upgrades. To defray the upfront cost of electrification and promote equity, the city also launched an extensive incentives program to help homeowners ditch fossil fuels.
In March 2021, Massachusetts lawmakers passed a landmark climate bill, which directs the Massachusetts Department of Energy resources to develop a “highly efficient stretch energy code” for local governments that want to opt-in and transition new construction away from gas. Now more than 20 cities and towns are pursuing policies to move buildings away from gas, and passage of a subsequent climate law in 2022 authorizes up to ten cities and towns in the state to eliminate fossil fuel hookups in new buildings.
In November 2019 became the first community outside of California to ban gas and other fossil fuel infrastructure in new buildings. While that bylaw was later struck down by the state's attorney general, the town is pursuing other measures that encourage all-electric buildings in new construction and major renovations.
A 2019 update of the city's Climate Action Plan called for retrofitting and electrifying at least 80% of the city’s existing buildings over the next 30 years. In September 2021, the Boston City Council took an important first step towards meeting that goal by passing an ordinance requiring the city’s largest buildings to meet increasingly aggressive emissions targets over time. A report commissioned by the city shows that two-thirds of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and says that meeting its carbon neutral by 2050 goal will require three overarching strategies: deep energy efficiency, electrifying as much as possible, and purchasing 100% clean energy.
Maryland lawmakers passed landmark climate legislation in April 2022, which requires the state to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across its economy by 2045. The new law includes an energy efficiency performance standard for buildings over 35,000 square feet that will ratchet down their emissions to zero by 2040.
In 2019, state lawmakers passed a suite of aggressive new climate bills aimed at dramatically reducing the state’s carbon emissions, which included tough efficiency standards for buildings larger than 50,000 square feet. Though it didn’t make it out of the statehouse in 2021, Gov. Jay Inslee continues to push legislation that would require new construction to gradually transition to all-electric appliances. The Washington State Building Council meanwhile voted to update the state’s building codes to require heat pumps and eliminate fossil fuels in all new commercial buildings starting July 1, 2023.
In February 2021 approved changes to its energy codes that will prevent gas use for space and water heating in most new commercial and apartment buildings. And the city had previously adopted a 24 cents per gallon tax on home-heating oil, with revenues dedicated to converting households from oil to all-electric heat.
In February 2022, Bellingham became the third city in Washington to require new commercial construction and all residential buildings taller than three stories to use electricity instead of gas for space and water heating.
New York has adopted legislation that commits the state to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Citing this target, the New York State Public Service Commission in March 2020 initiated a review of gas utilities and distribution that aims to “reduce or eliminate the need for gas infrastructure and investments.” And Gov. Kathy Hochul supports a proposal, currently before the state legislature, that could make New York the first state to require new buildings to use only electricity.
New York City
In April 2019 New York’s City Council passed sweeping climate legislation that caps emissions for buildings over 25,000 square feet. NYC became the first big American city, and only the second large city globally, to require energy retrofits on older buildings. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large buildings by 40% over the next decade and more than 80% by 2050. And in December 2021, the City Council passed another ground-breaking law that bans fossil fuel hookups in all new construction, requiring all-electric heating and cooking for buildings under seven stories starting in December 2023 and extending in 2027 to cover all taller buildings. Buildings are responsible for 70% of NYC’s greenhouse gas footprint.
In November 2021, the Ithaca Common Council voted to electrify and decarbonize every building in the city, and the city raised $100 million through private equity investment for a first phase targeting upgrades for about 1,600 buildings. While this novel initiative will allow the city to ditch fossil fuels and lower emissions, it will also help low-income households access new, highly efficient electric appliances that can lower costs and improve comfort.
Gov. Phil Murphy released the state’s final Energy Master Plan in January 2020, which, among other things, calls for the transition to a fully electrified building sector. According to the report, “... beyond 2030, state policy will have to aggressively target existing gas-heated buildings to reduce emissions and achieve aggregate energy demand reductions.”
District of Columbia
Buildings account for 74% of D.C.’s carbon emissions. The city passed an aggressive new energy law in December 2018 that, among other things, establishes energy efficiency requirements for buildings greater than 10,000 square feet. And in July 2022, the D.C. Council passed a law phasing out gas in new construction by 2026.