PROMO Energy - Electric Meter Money Power - iStock - MarkPiovesan

Washington could be first state to require new building electrification

© iStock - MarkPiovesan
Eric Tegethoff

(Washington News Service) Washington state could head to the front of the pack when it comes to electrifying new buildings. Proposals before the State Building Code Council would require high-efficiency heat pumps for space and water heating in new commercial buildings. 

According to the nonpartisan organization RMI - formerly the Rocky Mountain Institute - the shift away from gas to electric would eliminate about eight million tons of carbon dioxide by 2050, equivalent to taking 1.8 million cars off the road each year. 

Jonny Kocher is an associate with the clean energy think tank.

"Building electrification is one of those kind of no-brainer solutions where it's like we can actually save money both up front if the building is designed correctly," said Kocher. "The utility bills typically will either be the same or less. And then, we reduce emissions and improve health."

Skeptics of the plan point to the reliability and affordability of alternative sources to gas. 

The State Building Code Council is hosting a public hearing on Friday, including testimony on potential code changes. The state updates its energy codes every three years.

Other states and cities are considering changes that would push the electrification of buildings. Kocher said if Washington approves the proposed code updates, it would become a leader on this issue.

"Even though they would be some of the strongest in the country, it's overall a very modest change," said Kocher. "We're just starting with new construction because we know that by 2050 we need to have a lot of our buildings be all electric, and if we don't start with new construction we're just going to never really get there."

Washington state cities, including Seattle, Shoreline and Tacoma, already have ensured that new buildings must be electrified.