LA’s big step toward constructing electrification
Los Angeles is about to require that latest buildings be electric, but there’s a much bigger decarbonization hurdle waiting.
The City of Los Angeles goes into the brand new yr with a giant latest building-decarbonization ordinance: starting this yr, nearly all latest buildings in town could have to be entirely electric. Which means that, with few exceptions, latest buildings might want to exclusively use electric appliances, and is not going to be allowed to contain any fossil-fuel infrastructure, like natural-gas lines.
All-electric as the brand new normal
The brand new rules are easy: after April 1 (June 1 for some inexpensive housing), latest buildings is not going to be allowed to incorporate any fossil-fuel equipment or infrastructure. The one exceptions are for certain uses—emergency generators; restaurants and other business or institutional cooking; and process gas for some industrial, medical, and scientific buildings—and for attached accessory dwelling units (ADUs), if the constructing to which they’re attached already has gas lines.
Buildings that get an exemption for cooking or process gas will still must have the wiring essential to go all-electric in the longer term (much like the “electric ready” requirement for brand spanking new residential buildings statewide). This won’t have any immediate advantages, but it surely makes later decarbonization retrofits much inexpensive, and due to this fact more likely.
A win for climate, health & safety, and equitable process
It is a big step forward for the City’s Green Recent Deal, in addition to the fight for healthier and safer buildings. Cutting fossil fuels out of recent buildings will reduce indoor air pollution, help prevent natural-gas explosions and leaks, and contribute to the fight against climate change, which is already impacting Los Angeles residents—especially low-income and non-White people.
Just as essential is the method that led to the new-buildings ordinance. The law was the product of a collaboration between the City of LA and LA community organizations, led by the City’s Climate Emergency Mobilization Office (CEMO) and the RePower LA and LEAP LA coalitions. Together, these organizations have been convening meetings and workshops with the people most impacted by climate change policy in an effort to directly incorporate frontline communities’ priorities into the law. This work resulted in a Report on Equitable Constructing Decarbonization that has helped shape the ordinance—for instance, the exemption for gas stoves in restaurants was beneficial in that report.
A whole lot of difficult work lies ahead if the City goes to realize equitable constructing decarbonization. Perhaps the toughest—and potentially essentially the most rewarding—problem to unravel will probably be decarbonizing existing buildings. While latest all-electric buildings are cost-competitive and comparatively easy to plan, electrifying existing buildings is dearer and would require careful policy measures and robust political will. Specifically, decarbonization of existing rental housing could increase rent burdens and displace low-income tenants, but, however, offers a possibility to enhance health equity and lower tenants’ energy burdens. (For more on that, see this report by Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, who has also partnered with UCLA’s Environmental Law Clinic on this issue.)
And getting buildings to make use of electric appliances isn’t enough. To appreciate the promise of equitable decarbonization, Los Angeles will even must shift its electricity production to scrub energy—reducing pollution burden for people living near power plants—and reduce energy burden by expanding energy-efficiency and distributed-solar programs—like the Comprehensive Inexpensive Multifamily Retrofit program—in ways in which guarantee advantages and protections for low-income tenants and homeowners.
Because the struggle for climate justice continues, the City must keep listening to the individuals who have essentially the most to realize—or lose—from strong and equitable decarbonization policy. It’s made a wonderful start, let’s hope that it keeps it up in 2023.