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Santa Monica Releases 'Roadmap' for Existing Buildings to Go All Electric

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By Jorge Casuso

February 27, 2023 -- Santa Monica on Monday published an "Electrification Roadmap" that would eventually require property owners to transition from gas to electric before they can rent, sell or make major renovations to existing buildings.

The plan "identifies strategies to reduce carbon emissions and improve indoor air quality" and comes two months after a Zero Emission Building Code went into effect for new construction ("Council Paves Way for All-Electric Future," September 30, 2022).

The plan limits the installation of new fossil fuel appliances by 2030 and requires all buildings within the city limits to completely transition to all-electric by 2045. (view the Roadmap)

"Buildings account for over 30 percent of the City’s carbon emissions, primarily from burning natural gas for space and water heating," City official said.

"The Existing Building Electrification Roadmap outlines a holistic approach to equitably electrifying Santa Monica’s existing buildings, which tend to be less efficient than newer buildings and account for the majority of building emissions," officials said.

Starting in 2025, property owners must "meet (a) minimum efficiency standard" before they can renew a rental license or make "prescriptive upgrades" when they sell.

The roadmap also "establishes rules limiting the GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions from a certain appliance."

Starting in 2027, there will be "prescriptive requirements for allowable electric building systems at the time of major renovation."

A year later, the City will begin regulating which systems can be installed when a system is replaced.

To provide economic incentives to transition to electricity, the City will offer rebates for single and multi-family family residences and small businesses.

The rebates can be used for new heat pump HVACs, water heaters and clothes dryers; ranges, griddles and fryers; service panel upgrades, and electric vehicle chargers.

"New electric equipment must replace existing gas equipment," according to the City's Green Building Incentives webpage. "One rebate is available for each appliance type and may be stacked with other rebates."

For tenants who are income qualified, the rebates are double the standard amount, which ranges from $300 for an electric commercial fryer to $1,500 for an EV charger.

Transitioning to electricity will increase utility bills, since gas is a considerably cheaper form of energy.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that electric heating costs for U.S. homeowners will average $1,359 this winter, compared to $930 for gas.

City officials worked with stakeholders including Santa Monica Black Lives Association and Climate Action Santa Monica "to identify equity priorities and goals."

The roadmap is a key component of Santa Monica’s Climate Action & Adaptation Plan (CAAP), which calls for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings by 2030.

“Addressing the existential threat of climate change is a priority for our community,” said Chief Sustainability Officer Shannon Parry.

"This movement away from burning gas will significantly lower the carbon footprint of existing buildings and improve indoor air quality.”

With the release of the Roadmap, Santa Monica "joins a small but growing list of cities that are developing strategies to improve building performance and electrify their existing buildings," City officials said.

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