An Electric End to 2022

  • Posted on 5 December 2022
  • By Austin Mendoza, Building Electrification Intern
Southern California has been plagued by poor air quality that directly affects our health by causing or worsening respiratory conditions by exposing us to toxic emissions. Gas use in buildings produces a significant amount of indoor air pollution in places where we’d expect to be safe like our workplaces and homes. Building electrification also referred to as building decarbonization, removes fossil fuel energy sources from buildings, moving instead to all-electric energy sources that cause zero carbon emissions. 
At the moment, most building electrification policy efforts are focused on regulating new construction. In the last half of 2022, many cities in California have moved forward with local building electrification laws to protect our air. Below are some recent highlights:
South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD)
In December, the SCAQMD, one of our largest local agencies responsible for ensuring we have good air quality, voted 9-2 on its 5-year air quality management plan. The air district has never complied with the healthy standards under the Clean Air Act. For years, organizations and communities have advocated for the AQMD to take action and enforce clean energy and zero emissions technology for buildings, transportation (indirect sources), and point sources like refineries and power plants. The plan includes standards such as:
  • Mandates rules to stop emissions within commercial buildings and residential appliances.
  • Forecasts strong regional rules to influence new development electrifying buildings.
  • Planning to regulate residential building appliances as early as 2029
This win is attributed to the tireless and persistent work of EJ groups, and community partners for their decades-long advocacy.
City of Glendale
In November Glendale passed an ordinance that requires new buildings built after January 1, 2023, to be all-electric. This means that gas lines will not be installed in new buildings, marking a step towards lasting climate and community resiliency. Glendale is an exemplary climate leader for including an infeasibility waiver process in its ordinance. This means that exemptions will only be given in circumstances where it is impossible to decarbonize (unavailable technology) for the building to comply. This represents one of the strongest building electrification ordinances to have passed in the region! 
City of Pasadena
In August, Pasadena became the 60th city in California to pass building electrification policies. This ordinance requires some new buildings to be fully electric, including some commercial buildings and multi-family buildings like apartment complexes. However, some building types, most notably single-family homes, are exempt.
City of Los Angeles
The City of Los Angeles has a building electrification ordinance of its own making its way through the council. Recommendations for an ordinance ordered by the City Council were released at the end of November and anticipated final passage by the end of 2022.
There are many exemptions carved out for restaurants, manufacturing, and other facilities in LA’s draft ordinance, but it does require that any exempted buildings contain the necessary infrastructure to be “electric ready”. While we would have liked to see fewer exemptions based on currently available technology, we are grateful for LA’s climate leadership for taking action on an ordinance that would make an impact on our air and lead the way for other cities, and states.
The Building sector is one of the largest contributors to climate change through carbon emissions. Climate change is very much upon us and requires urgent climate action from all of us. Together, these building electrification ordinances represent substantial progress that will improve public health and air quality in Southern California. With wins like these, our climate future looks brighter. Congratulations to all of the community organizations and Sierra Club volunteers leading this work. Here’s to another year of progress for 2023!

Header photo by Sierra Club MyGeneration Campaign


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