(The Center Square) – The Washington State Building Code Council Technical Advisory Group Friday morning passed a motion disapproving of a proposed code that would require new residential buildings to be built all-electric.
But that was largely a moot point in that earlier this month the group passed two proposals that would result in an effective ban on traditional HVAC systems and natural gas in residential buildings. One would require space heating to be all-electric, and the other would require water heating to be all-electric.
“We believe electrification is a very important step for Washington, but based on this TAG’s previous actions – and the discussions and testimonials we’ve already heard – we believe that TAG’s time would be better spent elsewhere, so we’d like to actually ask for a disapproval, so we can just move on,” said Sean Denniston, senior project manager at the New Buildings Institute in Portland, Oregon, who presented the three proposals.
The motion of disapproval passed unanimously by voice vote during the virtual meeting.
Todd Myers, director of the Center for the Environment at the Washington Policy Center, spoke to The Center Square about what it all means.
“The effect over time is to make all-electric much more preferable, even mandatory,” he said.
Myers says the requirements for building all-electric homes are based on outdated and inaccurate information that could drive up the cost of building homes.
According to the findings of his to researchnew estimates from all-electric proponents show construction costs for electrification making homes more expensive, updated utility cost projections turn savings into costs, CO2 emissions estimates are seriously flawed, and restrictions proposed would add nothing to the total CO2 reductions.
The latter two points were raised by Myers at last Friday’s TAG meeting which saw the group pass the requirement that water heating be all-electric.
“So what you have to ask is not if it reduces CO2 emissions, but if the increased cost is worth it to ease the transition, which I think is speculative,” Myers said. to the group.
Proponents of all-electric, Myers said, claim that money will be saved over time on costs, but that does nothing to help people trying to rent or buy a home.
That was a point raised by Andrea Smith, head of government affairs policy and research for the Building Industry Association of Washington, at Tuesday’s TAG meeting where the motion requiring space heating to be fully electric was adopted.
“That means an all-electric home would cost 22,000 in our state,” she said. “We have a housing and homelessness crisis right now, and, you know, it’s good that heat pumps provide cooling, but it’s not so good if you can’t afford to shelter you in the first place.”
She went on to say that this would be a “sad day for housing affordability for our state,” adding, “This just sends a signal to Washingtonians, our neighbors, and our loved ones that reducing greenhouse gas emissions greenhouse is more important than their right to be sheltered.”
The all-electric push is the result of a state law requiring the SBCC to update the energy code to reduce buildings’ annual energy use by 70% by 2031 from a reference from 2006.
In March, the CCSC voted to require new commercial and multi-family construction to have all-electric heating and hot water systems.
Some natural gas supporters have lamented that governing as an unelected body making a roundabout way around the state legislature, which in its last two sessions has refused to pass bills banning natural gas.
These proposals will now go to the full CCSC later this year.