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Seattle ordinance shifts new buildings' energy load to electricity

DW Keefer's picture
Journalist, Independent Journalist and Analyst

DW Keefer is a Denver-based energy journalist who writes extensively for national and international publications on all forms of electric power generation, utility regulation, business models...

  • Member since 2017
  • 277 items added with 272,441 views
  • Feb 2, 2021

Seattle has joined a growing list of West Coast cities whose city council has passed an ordinance discouraging new fossil fuel use in large buildings.

The ordinance approved by the Seattle City Council bans natural gas for space and water heating in new commercial and apartment buildings taller than three stories.

Developers will be required instead to select more efficient, electric technologies rather than gas-powered versions. The ordinance also bans natural gas for space heating in replacement heating systems in older buildings.

The code has the potential to prevent an increase in building-sector climate pollution by 2050 while reducing utility bills. Without the code, Seattle city officials said that building emissions would have been 12% higher by that date. The 2013 Climate Action Plan has set a goal of achieving a 58% reduction in emissions by 2030 and being net-zero carbon by 2050.

A report released by the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment in December indicated that the city’s core GHG emissions rose 1.1% between 2016 and 2018. Meanwhile,  emissions from the building sector rose by 8.1%.

In a statement released in December when she proposed the changes to the energy code Major Jenny Durkan said that factors contributing to the increase in building emissions are new buildings with fossil gas space and water heating, colder winters, warmer summers, and a growing population and workforce.

The California Energy Commission, meanwhile, is reworking the state's building codes for energy-efficient homes. The effort expands the state's mandates requiring solar panels on all new homes starting in 2020. The CEC now plans to tighten rules on natural gas for home heating and hot water, a code update that would take effect in 2023.


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