Mention Berkeley and many people instantly think of peace, love and patchouli. Serving as a key hub for the hippie countercultural movement of the 1960s and 1970s, this city has long been synonymous with a green, conscious way of living. It’s not surprising, then, that this forward-thinking Northern California enclave has been leading the way with some very eco-friendly initiatives. The latest of these concerns natural gas, with Berkeley becoming the first U.S. city to ban natural gas in new homes.
- An ordinance banning natural gas use in new homes was introduced by Councilwoman Kate Harrison.
- It bans the installation of natural gas lines in new homes starting January 1st, 2020.
- It requires electric infrastructure to be present in all new single-family homes, small apartment buildings and townhomes.
“It’s an enormous issue,” says Harrison in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle. “We need to really tackle this. When we think about pollution and climate-change issues, we tend to think about factories and cars, but all buildings are producing greenhouse gas.”
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Though Berkeley is the first to implement a ban, other U.S. cities have been considering taking this step. California Energy Commission Chairman David Hochschild is a Berkeley resident, and he spoke at the City Council meeting at which the ordinance was passed. He said that 50 cities across the California are thinking about similar legislation, including San Francisco.
“That is how change happens,” commented Hochschild. “Right now, in California, we have a big focus on cleaning up the building sector because there are more emissions coming from combustion natural gas in our buildings than our entire state power plant fleet.”
To reduce greenhouse gases, Berkeley has been encouraging residents to consider solar energy. The city offers low- to no-cost rooftop solar to low-income households.
All this is part of the city’s larger march toward a more sustainable future. In 2009, Berkeley adopted an ambitious Climate Action Plan that aims for a 33 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Under this plan, the city has committed to using 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035.