On July 20, the Piedmont City Council will consider a package of proposed local amendments to the California Electrical Code, Residential Code, and Building Energy Efficiency Code. The amendments – also referred to as “Reach Codes” – would alter the requirements for home construction and renovation in Piedmont to facilitate building insulation, electrification, and solar panel installation, helping the Piedmont community reduce natural gas use in buildings and move towards community Climate Action Plan goals. The proposed amendments would also make homes more comfortable, decrease air pollutants, and provide homeowners with opportunities to save money.
Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan 2.0 sets an ambitious goal of reducing in-territory greenhouse gas emissions 80% between 2005 and 2050. The Piedmont community will not meet its 2050 target unless natural gas appliances are phased out of use (see below). Beyond releasing carbon emissions, natural gas appliances emit a variety of other dangerous pollutants when used. Decreasing natural gas use will decrease homeowners’ exposure to these dangerous pollutants.
In fall 2019, City staff began examining local amendments to the Electrical, Residential, and Building Energy Efficiency Codes as an approach to reduce emissions from natural gas appliances in buildings. In consultation with East Bay Community Energy’s Reach Code consultants, TRC, staff drafted an initial set of Code amendments to achieve greater building electrification and use of solar energy systems in Piedmont. Because the vast majority of Piedmont residences and businesses receive electricity generated by 100% renewable sources by virtue of being customers of East Bay Community Energy’s Renewable 100 electricity service, building electrification and solar panel installation, in turn, would increase the amount of building energy supplied from renewable electricity and decrease the amount supplied from natural gas.
In early 2020, staff launched a public engagement program for the initial Code amendment ideas in order for residents and local contractors to review them and provide commentary. Staff designed and posted a survey, which 186 people completed between early February and mid-March 2020. Staff also held five outreach events in January and February – a town hall-style Reach Code Forum and four follow-up workshops – to introduce the amendment ideas to residents and contractors and get detailed feedback.
The results and information provided by the public engagement program informed revisions to the proposed amendments that will better serve Piedmont residents. The proposed regulations affect new construction and alterations to existing residential buildings, so that they are better insulated, use more electrical appliances, and have rooftop solar panels. The purpose is to provide opportunities for homeowners to reduce the cost of home operations over time, reduce natural gas use in buildings, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to the use of natural gas. These include the following new requirements:
- Newly constructed low-rise residential buildings and detached accessory dwelling units will be powered entirely by electricity.
- Low-rise residential buildings adding a new upper level, or increasing their total roof area by at least 30%, must install solar panels.
- Renovations of Low-rise residential building with a construction value of $25,000 or more must include at least item from a list of energy efficient insulation or electrification measures. Renovations of $100,000 or more in value must include two of the items.
City staff encourage Piedmont residents to learn more about the proposed amendments by reading the “Reach Code” news item on the front page of the City website and to participate in the City Council’s discussion of the proposed amendments on July 20t.