Stables tend to be drafty. More insulation in a Bethlehem stable probably would have made it more comfortable for a baby nestled in a manger. But that was a long time ago. And as we battle today’s climate crisis, we must focus not just on the inns, but on commercial buildings in general.
Residential and commercial buildings account for 23.4 percent of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions. And there’s growing support for making electric appliances and heat pumps mandatory for new construction. Removing gas-burning equipment and installing a network of heat pumps and more solar panels could/should also be a priority for UCUCC members for their house of worship and for their own homes. As we contemplate New Year’s resolutions, perhaps we could strive to have a net-zero church and residences by 2030. Think about it.
Updated last February, Seattle’s Energy Code now bans gas furnaces and water heaters in new construction. Gas cooking is still allowed. The ban applies to commercial buildings and multifamily housing at least four stories tall. State law prohibits cities from imposing tighter energy codes on residential buildings less than four stories tall. The Metropolitan King County Council will likely conduct a public hearing in January on revisions to King County’s building code. One proposed revision would require all new buildings to be all-electric and fossil fuel-free.
Governor Inslee’s 2022 policy and budget proposal
includes a ‘net-zero ready’ requirement for all new construction beginning in 2034. It would require all-electric appliances and equipment, implement electrical panel capacity and wiring for solar panels, to incorporate electric vehicle charging and battery storage, and allow local jurisdictions to lead the way instead of being restricted by state limitations. Inslee’s December policy brief says, “Meeting this net-zero goal would establish a clear deadline to discontinue using fossil fuels in new homes and buildings.”
Puget Sound Energy is currently testing battery and other storage options. Inslee’s proposal would allow PSE and other consumer-owned utilities to fund incentive programs to enable customers to switch from fossil fuel to renewable electric space and water heating. Seattle City Light already has energy efficiency incentive programs for new construction.
Washington’s 2019 Clean Building Act allows the Dept of Commerce to develop energy standards for buildings which exceed 50,000 sq. ft. Inslee’s proposal would amend the current standards to 20,000-49,999 sq. ft. buildings, including large multifamily structures.
When the state legislature reconvenes for their session from January 10 to March 18, SEM’s legislative priorities will include new bills along with a couple of energy efficiency bills which failed to pass in 2021. One of those bills would require a cost analyses for competitive proposals for the design of public facilities to include at least one all-electric system. Approved in the House in 2021, time ran out in the Senate to pass the bill.
Anti-electrification lobbying and advertising by Puget Sound Energy and other gas-distribution utilities and unions representing their workers thwarted the other bill. It’s being broken out into new 2022 bills. —Lon Dickerson