The California Air Resources Board (CARB) just dealt the state’s fossil gas industry a massive blow. In doing so, it gave the green building market its biggest boost yet.

Late last month, the regulatory agency voted unanimously to ban the sale of new gas space and water heaters across the state. The regulation will take effect beginning in 2030. As an important note, this restriction will not apply to gas stoves and ovens, with cooking appliances unencumbered by this CARB regulation.

CARB’s gas ban will make electric heating the default choice for residential and commercial buildings. Given that heat pumps are a much more efficient option than electric resistance, the newer technology is poised to win a huge chunk of the market.

This gas moratorium won’t force current homeowners or landlords to throw out brand-new gas appliances or cut off service. Rather, once said devices break, property owners will be required to replace them with cleaner alternatives. And as this ban is applied at the point-of-sale, all new builds must also comply.

It’s important to mention that CARB’s action doesn’t guarantee a ban will go into effect just yet. Another affirmative vote from state agencies, such as the California Energy Commission, is still needed in 2025 to realize this change. But based on other recently passed policies in California, such as the elimination of subsidies for new gas hookups by the Public Utilities Commission, a statewide gas furnace ban is likely to benefit from pro-electrification tailwinds.

A Win-Win Policy Approach

Beyond achieving carbon reduction and climate goals, CARB’s decision to wean the state’s population off fossil gas fits into the bigger picture of California’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) – a set of strategies designed to reduce ground-level ozone (the bad kind) and improve air quality.

While burning natural gas doesn’t directly produce ozone (O3), the nitrogen oxides (NOx) released in the process combine with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – emitted by paints, pesticides and many other products – to form the harmful gas.

Plus, NOx has plenty of deleterious effects on its own.

The adverse health effects of NOx and O3 pollution are well documented. So too are the global warming potentials of both greenhouse gases. In working to mitigate NOx and ozone emissions, CARB’s two-pronged approach grants policymakers additional leverage against the gas industry’s opposition to similar electrification policies across the state.

This is just a SIP of CA’s Decarbonization Agenda

CARB’s plan goes beyond simply banning new gas appliance sales. The agency makes it clear in its 181-page action plan that the state will take a holistic approach to building decarbonization:

“CARB understands that this measure needs to be part of a suite of equity-promoting and complementary building decarbonization policies deeply informed by public process that include scaling back natural gas infrastructure, expanding construction of zero-emission buildings, and building a sustainable market by increasing affordability and accessibility through expanding incentive programs.”

The recent elimination of gas hookup subsidies, plus the $922 million for “Equitable Building Decarbonization” in Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2022-23 and 2023-24 budgets, proves that the Golden State means business.

Photo by Corona Borealis Studio. Source: Shutterstock.

About the author: Noah Gabriel

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