The building electrification bill, HB 1084, has been transformed into the Governor’s Healthy Homes & Clean Buildings bill. Building electrification is one of the environmental justice legislative priorities identified at the Justice Summit. The following provisions are in the bill:
- Eliminate all gas hookups by 2030.
- Eliminate building code preemption of local building codes; state code becomes minimum but local governments can go beyond.
- Expand requirements in law for benchmarking, energy audits on 5 year cycle for small bldgs.
- Eliminate RCW (Revised Code WA) references that favor gas industry.
- Create surcharge on use of natural gas, money used to address Environmental Justice issues.
- State policy of encouraging electrification throughout state by transition planning (take bldgs. off gas gradually)
The bill passed the Environment and Energy Committee and went to the Appropriations Committee, but Appropriations did not take action and it appears that the bill is dead for the session.While it will not get floor action as a separate bill, there is a provision in the budget for funding the Department of Commerce to pursue electrification and a provision funding the Utilities and Transportation Commission “to conduct research and stakeholder outreach to develop emission strategies related to regulated natural gas distribution companies…” These provisions could set the stage for further state action.
A related bill, HB 1280, has passed the house and is pending in the Senate. It is more restrictive, however, and applies only to public facilities. Passage would mean that the principle of building electrification has been established and could be expanded in future sessions.
Hearing, January 22, 2021
Rep. Ramel (D, Bellingham, sponsor) said we consulted stakeholders, to find ways to steadily reduce GHG over 30 years. “We don’t want to drill holes in the bottom of our boat while we are bailing it out.” We have to reduce use of gas to achieve climate goals. The bill is committed to justice for workers with new jobs and energy uses with electrification and weatherization. The rules would be based on successful incentives programs used by utilities and contractors.
Governor’s Office said the bill will support a broad program of GHG reduction, especially because buildings are a major source of GHGs. The bill has provision for low-income households. Utilities and Transportation Commission said all benefits of gas can be replaced by electricity. Department of Commerce noted that buildings sector is second-greatest source of GHG. Bellingham City is engaged in reducing GHG at local level, and the bill will help the city reach climate goals. Green Canopy Homes builds all-electric homes, which cost less to build than gas-connected homes. Health benefits are significant, and all-electric homes are less costly to use. Climate Solutions noted that the bill would ensure that WA climate goals could be met. Rocky Mountain Institute has analyzed electrification and said that electric homes cost $4500 less to build than gas-connected homes in WA. American Association of Architects need the rules for sustainability to reduce costs, and pushing off paying for retrofits will mean higher costs. Seattle City Office of Sustainability and Environment said that strong building codes will support livability in future. Seattle City Light uses hydro energy to be net carbon neutral, and needs the bill to continue reducing new GHGs to remain neutral. Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility noted that gas causes indoor air pollution that would be illegal outdoors, and impacts health of kids and elderly such as heart disease and cancer. Front and Centered supports provisions for low-income communities and job transition. American Biogas Institute says that recycling biogas will help replace fracked gas, but some details of bill may have unintended consequences for biogas use. Ecobuild Guild described the Thurston County climate plan that requires electrification, and that needs state action.
Rep. Klicker (R, Walla Walla) mentioned the rapid increases of housing costs. Ramel replied that there is a difference between costs of new versus older buildings; for new buildings are cheaper with electrification, for both construction and energy usage. For older buildings, we can use a 30-year plan for replacing equipment when replacement is needed anyway. Cascade Natural Gas serves many customers and contributes to WA economy, and gas still has an important role in energy. Decarbonizing the WA economy will still allow use of gas by using new technology and improving reliability. Contractors are worried by electrification, particularly conversion ($11,000 to $20,000), and destruction of jobs. Northwest Gas Association provides reliable heat for homes and commercial buildings but electrification will increase costs for all utility customers. Association of Washington Business emphasized costs and reliability issues. Puget Sound Energy is concerned about reliability and costs. Alliance of Western Energy Consumers, representing commercial and industrial users, is concerned about reliability and costs. City of Enumclaw says that residents depend on 100% reliability, which they cannot get only from electricity alone, particularly in blackouts. Plumbers, Pipefitters and Electricians, and other labor groups, have concerns about jobs and training for installing heat pumps, which require five-year apprenticeships. NW Natural emphasizes efficiency and renewable gas, and is concerned about costs to frontline communities. Real Estate Development Commission is concerned about costs for existing buildings and residences. Building Contractors Association cited increase in costs ($7000 to $20,000).