Energy Reach Code
- The City of Richmond has passed local amendments to the 2019 California Energy Code (California Code of Regulations, Title 24, Part 6). In part, these amendments require electricity as the sole fuel source for newly constructed buildings (not natural gas).
- These amendments exceed the requirements of the 2019 California Energy Code and are therefore referred to as a reach code.
- The City ordinance was approved by the City Council on March 3, 2020 and is effective as of the June 10, 2020 approval by the California Energy Commission
- According to the City of Richmond’s 2012 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory, natural gas accounted for 39.8% percent of all residential GHG emissions.
- Natural gas makes up 72% of the total energy emissions in Richmond, while electricity makes up only 28%.
- Thirty cities in California have passed similar reach codes in the past year.
- Building electrification is a strategic measure denoted in the City of Richmond’s Climate Action Plan (Strategies RE.3 and EE.3) needed to reach the City’s adopted climate and health co-benefit goals by 2050.
This energy reach code is applicable to building permit applications filed after June 10, 2020 as noted in the ordinance.
City of Richmond Reach Code Requirements
Requires solar panels for all new nonresidential and high rise residential buildings
- Less than 10,000 sq. ft.: Minimum 3 kW PV system
- Greater than 10,000 sq. ft.:Minimum 5 kW PV system
Requires that newly constructed buildings shall be an all-electric with the following exceptions:
- Non-residential buildings containing a Scientific Laboratory Building may contain a non-electric space conditioning system
- Residential buildings may contain non-electric cooking appliances and fireplaces
- Public agency owned and operated emergency centers may be exempted
- Non-residential buildings containing a for-profit restaurant or an employee kitchen may apply for an exception to install gas-fueled cooking appliances
Pre-wiring for electric appliances is required where exceptions are granted
- Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
- Improved indoor air quality
- Eliminates gas leak, CO, and combustion risk
- Avoid gas hookup fees; no monthly gas meter fee
- Potential lower utility bills (with onsite solar)
- Eliminates need for gas plumbing work
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All-Electric Building Resources:
- E3 Study on Residential Building Electrification
- Residential and Non-residential Cost-Effectiveness Studies
- Redwood Energy case studies on all electric multifamily dwellings (including high rise multi-family residential).
- Redwood Energy case studies on all electric commercial buildings.
- Heat Pump Water Heaters: US Department of Energy informational webpage
Frequently Asked Questions
Are all-electric buildings more expensive to build?
In most cases, all-electric buildings will actually cost less or similar to mixed fuel building due to the elimination of the installation cost of gas infrastructure, including gas meter and gas plumbing infrastructure. You can find more information in the Residential and Non-residential Cost-Effectiveness Studies. Richmond is in Climate Zone 3.
How reliable is the electric grid compared to natural gas?
Both natural gas and electric infrastructure go down occasionally. In the case of wildfires, natural disasters, etc, natural gas infrastructure is also supposed to be turned off. Gas infrastructure is also vulnerable to fires and earthquakes, with gas pipe explosions leading to post-earthquake fires. For full reliability, electricity and battery and solar backup via microgrid is an effective solution. In addition, many modern gas appliances rely on electricity to operate (e.g. electric ignition).
What is electric readiness/pre-wiring?
Electric readiness/pre-wiring consists of including electric conduits and outlets near the location of natural gas appliances, such as water and space heating equipment, dryers, stoves, etc. This also includes ensuring additional space is allocated for heat pump water heaters for the eventual conversion to electric.
If I build an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), will it need to comply with this reach code?
If it is a detached ADU, it will need to comply with this reach code. If it is an attached ADU, it will not be covered by the reach code as it is considered an addition/alteration to an existing building.
How does the reach code affect affordable housing projects?
Because most building projects are cheaper to build as all-electric, according to the statewide cost-effectiveness studies, they should not adversely affect affordable housing projects.
Can the central heat pump water heater distribute adequate water supply temperature to multiple units simultaneously?
Yes, when designed appropriately. Many entities are supporting design guideline development, which is expected to be publicly available in 2020. Please refer to the Redwood Energy Electric Multifamily Construction Guide for more information.
How does induction cooking compare to natural gas cooking?
Induction cooktops have a much higher efficiency than gas and electric coils. They have similar cooking control as natural gas. They provide greater speed, improved indoor air quality, and enhanced safety as compared to natural gas. Please see the factsheet from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Easy Bay for more information.