Our nation’s capital recently enacted a law to phase out natural gas use in new building construction projects.
The D.C. City Council unanimously voted for the Clean Energy DC Building Code Amendment Act of 2022. The measure will require “all new construction be subject to the District’s voluntary net zero energy standard known as Appendix Z” by December 31st, 2026.
This measure will apply to all new commercial buildings, condominiums, apartment buildings, and single family homes exceeding three stories.
The four page text doesn’t create new standards, but instructs the mayor to “issue final regulations” by the aforementioned deadline. It stipulates if the mayor fails here, no building permit applications will be approved unless they adhere to Appendix Z of the D.C. Energy Conservation Code.
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), an organization pushing the Mid-Atlantic region towards a net-zero future, is celebrating the newly-enacted policy.
“The District of Columbia this week has really raised the bar on climate action, not only in the nation’s capital, but for the whole country,” Mike Tidwell, CCAN executive director, told the DCist.
Washington, D.C. isn’t the first municipality to embrace this fad. As of this writing, over 70 municipalities across ten states have adopted similar phase outs. But at what cost?
It’s estimated natural gas bans could cost Americans upwards of $96 billion. According to Bloomberg Law, nearly 50 million single-family households will pay $2,000 in additional costs to “fully electrify” their homes:
A recent analysis from clean energy research and testing firm Pecan Street Inc. found that nearly 50 million single-family U.S. households would need to spend thousands of dollars to upgrade their homes’ electrical panels before they can “fully electrify” and abandon the use of natural gas.
On average, the upgrades would cost around $2,000 per home, although the cost could go as high as $5,000 in some cases. When considering all 48 million homes that currently rely on natural gas in some capacity, the price tag for conversion would total $96 billion. (emphasis added).
Is natural gas as harmful as these municipalities believe? According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), it’s a clean burning fossil fuel. The agency notes, “Burning natural gas for energy results in fewer emissions of nearly all types of air pollutants and carbon dioxide (CO2) than burning coal or petroleum products to produce an equal amount of energy.”
In terms of electricity generation, natural gas generated 38% of the total share followed by coal (21%) and nuclear (18.9%).
Moreover, the American Gas Association reports the energy source is ubiquitous in U.S. households: 177 million Americans use it for heating homes, warming water, and cooking food, among many purposes.
Energy services are 19.4% up overall from a year ago due to inflation, per the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) data. Yet the D.C. City Council decided to proceed with this costly and coercive policy.
Despite this push, 21 U.S. states—including Virginia— preemptively barred municipalities from banning natural gas usage since they recognize the costs aren’t worth the hype. As more places bear the brunt of these policies, cities and localities that embraced “voluntary” natural gas phase outs may reconsider.
D.C. should take a hard look at the costs it will impose on its residents and reverse course from an unattainable net-zero goal.