California Climate Plan Calls for All-Electric New Homes

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — New homes built in California starting in 2026 need to be powered by all-electric furnaces, stoves and other appliances if California is to meet its ambitious climate change goals over the next two decades, according to a state pollution-reduction plan released Tuesday.

The roadmap by the California Air Resources Board sets the state on a path to achieve “carbon neutrality” by 2045, meaning as much carbon is removed from the air as is emitted. The state’s timeline is among the most ambitious in the nation; Hawaii has a similar goal and some other states have a 2050 deadline.

California can achieve its goals by making a dramatic transition from fossil fuels to power homes, cars, boats, planes and other parts of the economy. According to the board, the state should reduce its use of oil and natural gas by 91% before 2045. The state also needs technology that can capture and store carbon from other sources.

This plan was created by staff of the air board and is not yet final. Public comment will start and political appointees will decide whether or not to change the plan. To put in the policies, either the Legislature or any other regulatory body would need to approve. For example, the California Energy Commission sets building codes.

State officials still believe the document is a significant step towards the future of California and the United States. California is the nation’s most populous state and has the world’s fifth largest economy compared to other nations. That economic power means the state’s policy choices can drive major business changes, and other states often follow California’s lead on climate policy.

“When final, this plan will serve as a model for other industrial economies around the world,” said Jared Blumenfeld, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

The oil industry and environmental justice activists were not happy. The plan’s reliance upon carbon capture technology was criticized by environmental groups. They claim it allows cement plants, oil refineries and other industrial facilities to pollute disadvantaged areas. Another aspect of the plan, which calls for increasing natural gas capacities, was not mentioned by environmental groups.

“At a time when we need to be planning for a phaseout of fossil fuels, our top air regulators are instead planning for a massive expansion of dirty gas-fired power plants,” Ari Eisenstadt, campaign manager for Regenerate California, said in a statement. This group is made up of the California Environmental Justice Alliance (Sierra Club) and advocates for clean energy.

The Western States Petroleum Association, meanwhile, decried the plan would mean more “bans, mandates and expensive regulations.”

“Forcing people to pick certain jobs, certain cars, certain homes, and certain times to use energy is out of touch with how ordinary people live,” WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd said in a statement.

Changing how buildings and means of transportation are powered is at the center of the air board’s plan. According to the plan, all new buildings should have electrical appliances. This will be followed by new businesses in 2029 and 2026. Electric appliances should make up 80% and 100% of existing home sales by 2030 for new homes. This would ensure that older houses can switch to electric appliances when they need them.

Transportation, meanwhile, is the state’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions. Already, the state has set a goal to have all new passenger vehicles be emission-free by 2035. Plan also calls for all new truck sales to have zero emissions by 2040. 10% of the fuel needs of an airplane must be fulfilled with hydrogen or battery by 2045. All drayage trucks will be 100% zero-emissions by 2035. Passenger train sales should be 100% zero-emissions by 2030.

The new plan will create significant demand for electricity, and the state would need to quickly increase solar power and storage options as well as the hydrogen infrastructure (including pipelines) in order to accommodate this.

California’s 2045 carbon neutrality goal stems from an executive order then-Gov. Jerry Brown was the first to sign in 2018. But the air board has been required to release a roadmap for achieving the state’s climate goals every five years since 2008.

In the last draft of this plan, California was asked to show how it will achieve a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gases emissions by 2030. Some observers of the process had called for a robust analysis of the state’s progress toward the 2030 goal, including the role California’s signature cap-and-trade program was expected to play.

But the 200-plus page document released Tuesday includes just a small section on the state’s progress toward 2030 and does not directly lay out what level of emissions reductions are expected from the various programs the state already has in place. It says the role of cap and trade in achieving the state’s goals will likely diminish. This program will require businesses to purchase credit equal to their carbon emission, in order to encourage reductions over time as credits prices rise.

The air board won’t assess whether changes are needed to reach the 2030 goal until after the scoping plan is finished, the plan said.

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