Decarbonization of Heating Energy Use in California Buildings

California has some of the most comprehensive and ambitious clean energy policies in the world, with a recently passed law requiring 100-percent carbon-free electricity by 2045,1 and an executive order aiming for economy-wide carbon neutrality by the same date. Using strong policies to encourage energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean transportation, the state is making rapid progress toward its goals. But to hit the mark, California will need to turn its attention to an overlooked corner of the emissions picture: the fossil fuels widely used to heat the buildings where Californians live and work. California’s buildings are responsible for 25 percent of the state’s climate emissions,2 and more than half of those emissions come from burning gas or propane in furnaces and water heaters.3 In fact, nearly 90 percent of California homes use gas for heat or hot water or both. And as the electric grid gets cleaner over time, the share of building emissions from onsite fossil fuel use will only increase, making heating and hot water the lion’s share of emissions from energy use in buildings.

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