Electrification. In many cities across California, transitioning away from natural gas and to electric utilities is front and center. For Healdsburg, that process will involve an update of city building codes this year.
California is in the midst of major changes to its energy sources. As the state moves closer to a net zero carbon emissions goal, Healdsburg, like many other cities, has adopted building codes that go beyond the state’s minimum energy efficiency requirements.
Called a REACH Code for reaching beyond the state requirements, Healdsburg currently requires all-electric space and water heating in new building developments and major remodels. And it could soon phase out natural gas appliance exemptions entirely. Healdsburg Utility Director Terry Crowley explained to the city council this week that the current REACH code will expire this year and he presented three draft plans to consider.
"The first option basically takes the existing reach code and moves it forward to the next building cycle." Crowley said. "So option two would be to take the existing reach code, remove the prescribed exemptions for fireplaces. Remove the exemption for cooktops or remove the exemption for swimming pools. Option three is to implement a natural gas ban."
Despite numerous public comments urging the council to adopt a natural gas ban similar to the one recently adopted by Petaluma, some council members erred towards minor changes to the current REACH code. Mayor Osvaldo Jimenez said he’s concerned about cutting off available energy sources to residents during major events like fires or when PG&E turns off electricity.
"We don't right now have an effective mechanism with the solar array to essentially store power so that we can reroute it to the city when there is a PSPS event," said Jimenez.
Vice Mayor Ariel Kelley disagreed, pointing to recent studies showing the detrimental effect of natural gas emissions on both humans and the environment.
Mayor Jimenez did acknowledge the council’s understanding of the emergency posed by climate change, but this week's council discussion indicated Healdsburg’s REACH code is likely to remain largely unchanged going into the next three-year regulatory cycle.