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San Jose to Mandate Electric Over Gas for New Homes

Electrification will Contribute to City's Climate Goals

In September, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved a new reach building code aimed at electrifying buildings and transportation.

The San Jose City Council has taken a giant step in making the city's homes more efficient and affordable, as well as meeting the city's climate commitments, according to a report by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The climate plan, which sets a goal to have 100 percent of new homes achieve zero net energy by 2020, recognizes that zero net energy homes optimize building performance, lower energy loads and reduce energy bills, while providing more affordable housing in a city with rising housing prices and a growing population.

Electrification will significantly contribute to meeting San Jose's climate goals, because household use of natural gas in heating and cooking creates emissions in the city. However, electrifying buildings may also lower both first construction costs and operating costs, a significant benefit for residents in a city facing a housing affordability crisis and steadily increasing gas prices. City officials found that all-electric single-family homes are cheaper to build per square foot than mixed-use fuel homes, with cost savings resulting from not needing to build in natural gas infrastructure. These savings could also offset the potential higher costs of electric appliances.

Although the new ordinance only applies to new single-family homes and multifamily buildings, the city's Electrify San Jose program provides rebates for owners of existing homes and commercial construction to construct or switch from fossil-fuel based energy sources or to electricity.

San Jose's new green building policies can be powerful signals to other large cities that it is possible to take aggressive action locally to meet climate commitments while creating a healthier and more affordable future.

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December 9, 2019, 6:20 am PDT

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