California regulators voted unanimously recently on a series of measures that include a ban on the sale of natural gas-powered heating and hot water systems beginning in 2030.
If the decision goes forward, it would be the first time a state has banned fossil fuel heaters for existing buildings as well as for new construction. The California Air Resources Board (CARB), the agency that oversees the state’s climate targets and regulates pollution, passed the measure as part of a larger plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and comply with federal air quality targets.
The ban is not a done deal, however, according to a CARB spokesperson. “The commitment the Board made in approving the State SIP (State Implementation Plan) Strategy was for California Air Resources Board staff to pursue each measure in the document and take it to the Board for consideration,” says Melanie J. Turner, CARB information officer. “CARB will need to hold workshops and look at the issues related to the space and water heater measure. If the concept is not feasible, CARB staff will present the information to the Board who could determine they will not pursue it.”
If the ban on fossil fuel heating does go into effect, homeowners in California would only be able to buy zero-emission furnaces or hot-water heaters. Regulators expect this would prompt a switch to heat pumps and heat pump water heaters.
The use of fossil fuels in homes accounts for about 10% of U.S. carbon emissions. Since 2019, several cities and states have either enacted fossil fuel hookup bans for new buildings or have considered such bans. California is the first jurisdiction to extend such bans to existing buildings.
A switch to heat pumps, a more efficient cooling appliance than commonly used air conditioning units, could cut peak energy demand during heat waves, reducing the risk of brownouts and blackouts. To help residents make the transition to heat pumps, California’s most recent budget includes $1.4 billion to decarbonize buildings. Most of that funding is targeted for low-income families.