Two bills that will cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution from homes and commercial buildings just moved forward in the California Legislature. The Senate approved SB 1477 by Senator Stern on Wednesday and the Assembly passed AB 3232 by Assemblymember Friedman yesterday. Each bill now moves on to the other house for committee hearings and a final vote by the end of August.
These bills address a gap in California’s policies to mitigate the impacts of climate change and to clean up the air in a state that sees some of the worst air pollution in the country. For example, 93 percent of Californians still live in areas that exceed the federal limits for ozone pollution. And the building sector as a whole is responsible for a quarter of California’s GHG emissions.
A large share of those emissions come from furnaces and water heaters, most of them burning fossil fuels like natural gas and propane. Clean technologies for space and water heating exist, such as super-efficient electric heat pumps, but they currently have a low market share in California.
These clean heating technologies have the potential to significantly reduce utility bills. However, they often cost more upfront today, in large part because they are still a new technology like solar panels were 20 years ago.
Senate Bill 1477 would create two new programs to develop the market for low-emissions new building construction, and for emerging clean heating technologies. Just as California has done with solar, SB 1477 spurs early market development for clean heating technologies with the aim to lower technology costs and enable mass market adoption. SB 1477 will enable Californians to choose clean and affordable heating technologies when they next replace their furnace or water heater, or buy a new home.
Assembly Bill 3232 would require the California Energy Commission to assess the potential for the state to reduce emissions from buildings by 40 percent by 2030 below 1990, in line with the state’s goal for the entire economy. In spite of major progress such as the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 and the building energy code that was recently updated to require zero-net electricity on new homes by 2020, there is still a significant gap to achieve this goal in the building sector. The first step to bridging this gap is to identify key options and policies to achieve this target in residential and commercial buildings. The assessment will inform future state policy and ensure Californians get the best deal for their wallets, health, and kids’ future.
These two policies are foundational to ensure Californians have the opportunity to choose clean and affordable heat and hot water, while cleaning up California’s air and helping the Golden State lead the nation and the world toward a clean and affordable energy future.