San Jose: the largest U.S. city to ban natural gas in new construction by 2021


San Jose, California, could become the largest city in the United States to ban natural gas use in nearly all new construction. Next week, the city council will vote on this proposal in an effort to fight climate change.

San Jose: to set an example on natural gas banning?

In that regard, the San Jose City Council is expected to approve the proposal that would prohibit natural gas use in new commercial and large residential buildings beginning in August 2021.

This action follows a January ordinance on barring natural gas in new single-family homes. Olivia Walker, Natural Resources Defense Council research associate, told The Mercury News the city’s effort looks to set a model for local governments across the state and country.

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Amid a national movement to fight climate change, San Jose would join 24 cities across California, requiring new buildings to be all-electric.  For instance, San Francisco and Berkeley passed natural gas bans on all new construction.

According to a city council officer, expanding San Jose’s natural gas ban will improve indoor air quality and reduce future greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Therefore, the city is expected to offset approximately 608 thousand tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next five years.

Advantages and backlash

In addition to the ban, the city already launched its own community choice energy program through which it aims to produce enough solar power to run 250 thousand homes by 2040.

Therefore, the ordinance will ensure all new residential buildings by 2020 and commercial buildings by 2030 to be zero net energy. That would mean the amount of energy used by those buildings would be equal to the amount of renewable energy created on-site.

San Jose’s new ordinance won’t affect existing homes or commercial buildings. The ban will also exempt hospitals and new dwelling units. Limited exemptions will target manufacturing and industrial facilities and new food service establishments until December 2022.

If new buildings apply for an exemption, they would still be required to add all-electric appliances.  In this regard, the possibility of having exemptions is facing significant scrutiny.

According to some climate activists, the new mandates need to be complied with to generate meaningful changes regarding climate change. In contrast, other stakeholders consider the ban on increasing costs and incentivizing an exodus of people leaving California.

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