The California Assembly’s natural Resources Committee voted 6-3 to advance a proposed bill that looks at ways to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in residential and non-residential buildings. The bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Laura Friedman, would require the California Energy Commission (CEC) to establish a plan that would make all new buildings emission free as of Jan. 1, 2030. AB3232 also calls upon CEC to formulate a strategy to achieve a 50 percent reduction in GHG emissions generated by the state's existing residential and nonresidential building stock.

“Our buildings are the third highest source of greenhouse gas emissions,” Friedman said in a Facebook post. “Currently, we don’t have a comprehensive plan in place to reduce the carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels in new buildings and from the more than 13 million existing homes, apartments, and commercial buildings. My AB 3232 would put California on a path to achieve zero-emissions in all new buildings by 2030.” 

Friedman’s bill is intended to help the state meet its 2030 climate goals, which aim to reduce GHG emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels. Bill supporters stated that building-related emissions are the second-largest category of emissions of greenhouse gases in the state, accounting for 25 percent of those emissions.

But several interest groups spoke out against AB3232 at the Monday meeting, saying that the bill could backfire if it leads to more electrification, resulting in greater emissions. Opponents also speculated that such a mandate could adversely affect grid reliability. Dave Schryver of American Public Gas Association added that the legislation could prove too costly for energy rate payers.  

“Households that use all-electric appliances pay almost $900 a year more than mixed-fuel homes. This will unfairly place low and fixed-income families in the uncomfortable position of having to choose whether to pay for energy versus other necessities such as food, medicine, child care, and more,” Schryver told the committee.

A committee analysis seemed to suggest a rebate program on related consumer purchases may be in order.

“The state's electricity grid is moving toward renewable energy and generation that significantly reduced GHG emissions; however, natural gas remains inexpensive when compared to electricity so these changes have the potential to increase utility bills. Electric water heaters and heat pumps are generally significantly more expensive up front than their gas counterparts,” the committee noted. “Most consumers are eligible for some kind of rebate from their utility company when they replace inefficient electric appliances with more efficient models; however, rebates are not available for moving from gas to electric.”

The bill now goes to the Energy and Utilities Committee, which is scheduled to meet April 18.