The City is committed to achieving carbon neutrality through bold and thoughtful programs and policies that make it easier for our community to take sustainable actions. Together we are acting locally to make global change.
Below is a pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reach the City’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2035.
These efforts include electrifying transportation, switching from vehicle to active transportation, improving infrastructure to support telecommuting, and decarbonizing the energy and building sectors.
Check out a few current efforts the City is taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our community’s three main sources: energy & buildings, transportation, and waste.
Natural Gas Prohibition to New Buildings
Roughly 40% of Santa Barbara’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions comes from the building sector, mainly because they account for nearly all of the City’s energy use. Soon these associated emissions will be greatly reduced with the launch of Santa Barbara Clean Energy, which will provide the City with 100% renewable electricity content. However, to fully decarbonize the building sector natural gas consumption must be addressed. Natural gas is primarily methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and leakage along the natural gas system contributes concerning amounts of GHG emissions.
On July 27th Santa Barbara City Council adopted an Ordinance that prohibits the installation of natural gas infrastructure in newly constructed buildings as part of its efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. This Ordinance applies to all building permits submitted after January 1, 2022. The City is joining nearly 50 jurisdictions in California who have taken similar actions to limit natural gas infrastructure in an effort to avoid greenhouse gas emissions related to new buildings.
This Ordinance applies to all building permits submitted after January 1, 2022 and only applies to newly constructed buildings. New buildings are defined as a project that meet two or more of the following criteria:
- More than 75% of the structural elements of the roof or roof framing are removed;
- More than 75% of the structural exterior walls (or vertical supports such as posts or columns when a structure has no walls) of a structure are removed or are no longer a necessary and integral structural component of the overall building;
- More than 75% of the foundation system is removed, or is no longer a necessary and integral structural component of the overall structure, including, but not limited to: perimeter concrete foundation, retaining walls, post and pier foundations, or similar elements that connect a structure to the ground and transfer gravity loads from the structure to the ground.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) that are completely new buildings must be all-electric. ADUs that are being added on to an existing building and that do not meet two or more of the criteria listed above do not have to comply with the ordinance
Exemptions are allowed for the following: restaurants, clean rooms, laboratories, and projects where electrification is not feasible.
January 12, 2021: Council Study Session in which Council directs staff to develop draft Ordinance language prohibiting natural gas infrastructure in new construction
March 15, 2021: Staff proposes initial draft of Ordinance to Sustainability Committee. Committee forwards draft on to Ordinance Committee.
May 11, 2021: Staff presents updated draft of Ordinance to Ordinance Committee. Ordinance Committee forwards the draft to Council with recommendation for adoption.
July 27, 2021: Council adopted proposed Ordinance. Read the Ordinance here: Natural Gas Infrastructure Prohibition Ordinance
January 1st, 2022: Deadline to have submitted a building permit to install natural gas infrastructure in a newly constructed building.
High-Performance Building Trainings 3C-REN: https://www.3c-ren.org/building-performance-training/
All-Electric Homes and Buildings SCE: https://www.edison.com/home/innovation/building-electrification.html
NATURAL GAS PROHIBITION FACTS
Natural Gas Prohibition
No, the natural gas prohibition ordinance only applies to new buildings. Existing buildings, including remodels, additions renovations won’t be impacted, even if the building changes use.
There are two main reasons why passing a natural gas prohibition for new buildings will have a large local impact, despite our City not having much new construction. First, buildings are long-term assets which essentially “lock-in” carbon emissions for long periods of time and over time their aggregated emissions are significant. Second, this ordinance will provide a strong market signal for the industry to invest in electric technologies and advance the occupant experience as the State transitions to all-electric buildings.
Yes! We plan on addressing existing buildings with a different approach. We will use a combination of incentive and funding programs coupled with educational opportunities to encourage a transition to all-electric existing buildings as owners are able.
Currently, a significant portion of electricity in California is generated from natural gas. However, the State mandates an increasing amount of renewable content over the next few decades, with the goal to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2045. This means the electric grid is quickly moving away from natural gas as an electricity resource. In Santa Barbara, we are accelerating this timeline by launching Santa Barbara Clean Energy in October of 2021, which will offer100% carbon-free electricity to the City.
Not anymore! Modern electric appliances have come a long way and are actually up to four times more efficient than natural gas appliances. This means that they use significantly less energy than both natural gas appliances and the electric appliances of the past.
Learn more about the efficiencies of modern electric appliances here: https://www.switchison.org/how-it-works.
Not likely! Cost effectiveness studies produced by statewide agencies have shown that all-electric construction is cost effective in Santa Barbara for all building types. Additionally, utility bills are shown to stay about constant due to the major increases in efficiency, despite the difference between electric and gas utility rates.
New building codes require many new buildings to install solar arrays which allows you to produce some of your energy onsite. This also decreases your electric bill.
Promising advances are being made to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in natural gas. The most promising is renewable natural gas (RNG), which mostly comes from sources such as dairies and landfills. This biogas is cleaned up and injected into the natural gas system. Unfortunately, there are not enough sources of RNG within California to meet all of our current natural gas needs. However, RNG is a very good solution for interim and hard to electrify applications such as existing buildings, heavy industry and freight.
Another promising resource is hydrogen, which can be injected in small amounts into the natural gas distribution system. The natural gas distribution system can only handle small amounts of hydrogen injection before significant and costly upgrades need to be made.
The bottom line is that there is no way currently make the natural gas system carbon free.
YES! Electric appliances have come a long way in the last decade. When we think of cooking on electric stoves we think of uneven and cumbersome heat distribution and an unpleasant cooking experience. New electric stoves are induction and provide perfectly even and controllable heat, while eliminating indoor air pollutants and burn risks associated with gas cooking (induction cooktops don’t get hot!).
Additionally, space and water heating technologies have made significant improvements. Electric appliances of the past used to use electric resistance technologies to create heat and this was a very inefficient and expensive process. However, today’s electrical space and water appliances use heat pump technology which is up to 400% more efficient than standard natural gas appliances. They can even provide thermal storage and both space heating and cooling, so can replace both a furnace AND an air conditioner.
To learn more about modern electric appliances, check out: https://www.switchison.org/how-it-works.
The current proposed draft natural gas prohibition ordinance for new buildings includes exemptions for newly constructed restaurants, laboratories, and projects that deemed to be in the public interest (where it is necessary to include natural gas) by the Permitting Authority.
The City hosted two informational webinars in February 2021.
Below is the recording of one of the sessions in English and Spanish.
On-Demand Permitting – Solar Photovoltaic with Optional Energy Storage
The City is improving the permitting process for solar photovoltaic with optional energy storage system projects with On-Demand Permitting (ODP). ODP removes the plan check phase, as long as the proposed project meets minimum requirements. Solar photovoltaic systems rated less than 10kW AC CEC with optional energy storage systems less than 27kWh are now available through ODP.
Get your on-demand permit through the Accala Citizen Access here: https://www.santabarbaraca.gov/gov/depts/cd/building/acabu
Workforce and Resident EV Charging Permit Pilot
Access to reliable and convenient charging can be a major barrier when considering a switch to an electric vehicles (EV). This is especially true for those with longer commutes, as well as downtown residents without charging infrastructure access at home.
To reduce these barriers, the City is piloting a permit program for rooftop electric vehicle charging at the Granada Garage, conveniently located in the heart of downtown. This program features reduced permit costs with no active charging requirement, which means no 4 hour shuffle to avoid a ticket for staying in one parking stall too long!
The program offers three permit choices to accommodate the needs of EV drivers. Workforce commuter permits allow charging during the workdays between 8am-6pm and offer a 50% discount on the monthly permit fee. The resident permits receive 30% off the monthly permit fee and full access to the garage 24/7. The income-qualified permits receive a 75% discount on the monthly parking permit price.
There are 15 commuter, 5 income-qualified, and 5 residential permits available starting February 1, 2021.
To get your electric vehicle charging permit and learn more about downtown parking go to: https://www.santabarbaraca.gov/gov/depts/pw/dtp/evpermits.asp.