Berkeley, California moves away from fossil fuels by banning natural gas in all new buildings

Berkeley, California has become the first city in the United States to ban all natural gas hook-ups in new residential buildings, and is hopeful their action will convince other cities in California to do the same in an effort to shift to net-zero carbon emissions from energy sources by 2045.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination, along with California state controller Steve Westly, hailed the move by Berkeley as “[leading] the way in the fight to defeat climate change.”


The ordinance will go into effect on January 1, 2020, and applies to all multi-unit construction. According to Emilie Raguso of Berkeleyside:

“The new law would apply only to building types that have been reviewed and analyzed by the California Energy Commission. Each time the state expands its models and analyses, according to the way the ordinance was designed, the city will be able to update its law without returning to council for a new vote.”

More impressive is just how drastically the ordinance will immediately impact the entire city of Berkeley:

“The city council found that, with the ban in place, electricity used to power heating and cooking systems in homes will be 78 percent carbon free. Currently, natural gas makes up 73 percent of Berkeley’s emissions from buildings.”

While the move away from natural gas will necessitate new investments, a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) last year revealed that “upfront costs of clean electric heating are generally lower than conventional gas alternatives in new construction, by $1,500 or more.”

According to Pierre Delforge, a senior scientist with the NRDC, there’s a misconception that burning natural gas is cleaner than electricity, but that’s simply not the case any longer:

“There’s been a lingering perception that burning gas was cleaner than electricity, which might have been true 20 years ago when electricity came from burning coal. When we look at electrification policies, we need to think about what the grid will look like in 10 or 20 years, not what it looked like yesterday.”

And clean energy is growing much faster than sources such as coal. A report from Time in 2017 noted that demand for renewable sources of energy will rise in the coming decades while the demand for coal-fired electricity is steadily declining.

Hopefully, Berkeley’s brave step forward will be the beginning of a clean energy wave across the country. As David Hochschild, California Energy Commission chairman and a Berkeley resident remarked:

“You see those changes go to other cities, then go up to the state level and then go to the national level. That’s how change happens.”

Featured Image Via Flickr

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Andrew Bradford

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