Washington becomes the first state to implement restrictions on natural gas infrastructure in new buildings; existing fossil fuel infrastructure to be phased out by 2050

The State of Washington, through a bill signed by Governor Jay Inslee, has spelled out a strategy to phase out the use of natural gas in homes and businesses. The Healthy Homes and Clean Buildings(HB 1084) Act requires all upcoming buildings to adhere to zero-carbon infrastructure by 2030. Owners of existing buildings should eliminate the use of conventional energy by 2050.

This act makes Washington the first state in the US to pass a law that changes the new buildings’ electrification codes. The Act will “limit and reduce the use of fossil fuels for space and water heating and advance the use of high-efficiency electric equipment.”

The bill, however, does not leave natural gas companies at crossroads. Instead of wiping out natural gas use completely, the bill has recommended the incorporation of renewable natural gas (RNG) and hydrogen produced through clean processes. Nevertheless, electric utilities, and more so from renewable sources, will be responsible for heating homes and businesses.

This bill will be a headache to most natural gas companies in Washington, such as the Avistor Corporation, Puget Sound Energy, Northwest Natural Holding Company, and MDU Resources Group Inc.

“Healthy Homes and Clean Buildings is a comprehensive approach to decarbonizing our building sector to meet science-based climate goals,” said Alex Ramel, Democrats Representative who sponsored the bill. “We’re committed to setting standards for new construction, making investments in electrification, and ensuring justice in the transition for energy users and workers,” he added.

The bill has provided for the elimination of onsite fossil fuel combustion for space and water heating. It also requires a 70% reduction of net energy use. Washington will have to come up with a new energy code that enables constructors to develop wholly-renewable energy buildings by 2030. A previous policy restricts local administrations from embracing residential building codes that are stricter than the state codes. HB1084 allows local jurisdictions to instruct a better energy use in buildings and carbon emission reduction than the state requires.

The law also extends the state energy targets for building requirements to small commercial buildings with more than 10,000 square feet of floor space. Under this bill, Washington restricts the expansion of the gas distribution system while advocating for the shift to electric equipment and clean energy production. Gas companies will invent a ‘safe and equitable transition’ to clean energy and present an implementation plan every four years to cut carbon emissions.

The companies will also have to ascertain that the transition to clean energy will not interfere with the demand and supply of energy. The state has provided incentives to utilities, builders, housing providers, and consumers for smooth conversion to electric heat pumps and other clean energy solutions.