SEATTLE (AP) — The Seattle City Council has unanimously approved changes to energy codes that will further clamp down on natural gas use in new commercial and apartment buildings taller than three stories.
The Seattle Times reports the ordinance approved Monday bans natural gas for space heating in new construction of these buildings, or for use in replacement heating systems in older buildings. It also would prohibit the use of natural gas to heat water in new hotels and large apartment buildings, and take other steps to improve energy conservation that include a greater use of more efficient electric heating and cooling systems.
The energy code changes are part of a broader effort to find ways to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuels that drive climate change.
In Seattle, and elsewhere around the state, many politicians are rallying around a blueprint for a low-carbon future that involves more electrification of the building and transportation industries, and then finding more ways to produce that power without generating greenhouse gases.
The energy code amendments will continue to allow commercial buildings and apartments to be constructed with natural gas for cooking. But electrical outlets would be required near stoves so that electric stoves could be installed later.
The new codes also do not cover new construction of houses and town houses, which have energy codes set by the state that now continue to allow natural gas heating.
Natural gas-industry officials have cautioned about switching too much of the energy load to the electrical-generation system, which is undergoing new strains as coal-fired generation declines amid a big expansion of more variable solar and wind power.
“On cold winter days like this, natural gas is an essential part of the energy system — for instance, it provides about two-thirds of the energy used by the city of Seattle on peak demand days,” said Janet Kim, a spokeswoman for Puget Sound Energy (PSE), who said the company did not take a position on the changes to the Seattle energy codes.