Washington to require electric heat pumps in all new commercial and large multifamily buildings
In April, the Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) voted to eliminate most uses of natural gas in new commercial and large multifamily buildings.
This code update will largely prevent new buildings from emitting greenhouse gases. Under the updated energy code that will take effect in July 2023, new commercial buildings – including multifamily residential buildings four stories and taller – will be required to be built with high-efficiency electric heat pumps for water and space heating.
Local governments can also go beyond these minimum standards for commercial and multifamily buildings and require even greater energy efficiency as well as other climate friendly policies. In the past year, the cities of Seattle, Shoreline, and Bellingham all approved versions of the commercial energy codes that largely prevent natural gas use.
Notably, the Washington Department of Commerce’s 2021 State Energy Strategy found that electrifying buildings is the lowest-cost pathway to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction requirements.
The SBCC is now moving forward with similar revisions to the state’s residential energy code, weighing proposals for all-electric new homes and small multifamily buildings. A technical advisory group will decide in June which amendments to advance for public comment and consideration by the full Council. The SBCC is expected to finalize and vote on the residential code by the end of 2022.
REGULATORY PROCESSES TO KEEP AN EYE ON
In Oregon and Washington, three regulatory proceedings in each state shine a light on inherent risks to the current gas business model.
|The Climate Protection Program (CPP): Oregon’s cap and reduce program regulating greenhouse gas emissions from gas utilities.
|The Climate Commitment Act (CCA): Washington’s cap and invest program regulating greenhouse emissions from gas utilities.
|Natural Gas Fact Finding (NGFF), the Oregon Public Utility Commission’s (OPUC) investigation into the impacts of emissions regulation on natural gas ratepayers.
|Natural Gas Decarbonization (NGD), the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission’s (WUTC) study of energy decarbonization impacts and pathways.
|NW Natural’s General Rate Case, which asks the OPUC to grant a rate hike that would result in residential bill increases of roughly 12 percent, in part to cover costs associated with RNG investments and marketing and advertising expenditures for NW Natural’s misleading decarbonization campaign.
|PSE’s General Rate Case, which asks the WUTC to grant a gas rate increase of 11.9 percent, in part to cover decarbonization of the natural gas pipeline system and integrating low carbon fuels such as RNG and green hydrogen.