‘All-Electric’ Movement Picks Up Speed, Catching Some Off Guard
As cities across the nation embrace electric power as a cleaner alternative to natural gas, developers are scrambling to keep up.
When Berkeley, Calif., became the first city in the country to ban natural gas hookups in new construction last July, no one knew the effects would ripple out so far and so fast.
The Berkeley ban was part of an effort to wean developers off buildings that consume fossil fuels, a cause of global warming, and promote cleaner electric power. And it spurred other communities in the state to enact ordinances to encourage all-electric construction.
The effort has spread to other parts of the country. The Massachusetts town of Brookline passed a prohibition on new gas connections, and municipalities near it are poised to do the same.
Now major cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, are in various stages of considering pro-electric legislation as part of the “electrify everything” movement.
As interest quickly blossoms, real estate and construction industries are scrambling to keep up. Some national organizations that represent builders and developers have yet to formulate a position.
Their members are not of one mind, however. Some developers and builders are already heading down the all-electric path in an effort to meet their own goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, even if not legally required to do so. But others are balking at the fast rollout, saying they want to retain the option of using gas or simply believe the new rules are being put into action too quickly.
“Builders call up asking: ‘Is this legal? What are the costs? What do I have to do?’” said Robert Raymer, technical director of the California Building Industry Association, a trade group with 3,100 members.
And for residential developers, there’s the question of whether the homes they build will appeal to buyers if they are not equipped with gas stoves. In the Southeast, nearly 45 percent of homes use only electricity, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, so people there are accustomed to electric stoves. But in many parts of the country, Americans have a choice, and more of them prefer cooking with gas, according to recent data from the National Multifamily Housing Council.