CARLSBAD — A trio of new ordinances approved by the City Council on March 12 targets additional green energy solutions.
The aim is to increase energy-efficient items such as water heaters and solar panels in new construction and major renovations. Whether a renovation qualifies is determined by an existing formula, according to Mike Grim, the city’s senior program manager for Environmental Management.
One target is the city’s nonresidential sector, which according to a recent staff report, is projected to either slightly miss or just meet the city’s Climate Action Plan regarding the output of electricity. Solar generation for residential buildings, meanwhile, has already met those goals and continues to rise.
“Our Climate Action Plan covers the greenhouse gas emission for new construction,” Grim said. “Through the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), we were already requiring developments to do this.”
According to Grim, a project will trigger the new requirements should its build permit valuation hit $60,000 for most residential projects.
However, those dollar amounts are not the cost of the project, he stressed. Instead, the formula is based on the cost per square foot of a renovated area multiplied by the type of construction, Grim said.
The formula comes from the International Code Council San Diego Chapter.
The ordinances are in line with state codes. However, the ordinances will now be forwarded to the California Energy Commission for final approval. Residences, though, can be exempt from the ordinances if they receive a seven or higher on the Home Energy Score. For businesses, Grim said, they can be exempt if they ramp up at least one level of energy efficiency already in the state building code.
“A lot of people want to electrify their fleet,” he added. “Some folks are voluntarily putting in EV. A lot of this stuff people are starting to do this. Our Climate Action Plan requires us to do this, so we are nudging people to do it.”
To trigger solar panel installation for businesses, Grim said the value must hit $1 million with 75 percent of the gross floor area.
Electric vehicle charging is also a new requirement for residential and commercial construction; although for residential renovations it must meet the $60,000 threshold with an electrical panel upgrade. However, Grim said the capacity in the panel must be able to handle a conduit and plug for those renovating.
With multi-family residences, he said site work must be included otherwise the upgrades are cost-prohibitive for EV charging. In addition, there is a cap due to San Diego Gas & Electric infrastructure not having the capacity to handle the extra load, Grim added.
If SDG&E charges more than $400 to upgrade, an individual or business is exempt.
“State law already requires that you have a certain amount of spaces that are essentially plumbed for EVs,” he explained. “What we’re saying is for multi-family and nonresidential, out of half of the ones the state was already going to make you plan for, you need to actually put in a charging station.”
With water heaters, the goal is to reduce the reliance on natural gas appliances by using energy-efficient electric water heaters or solar water heating systems for new construction. However, a separate water-heating ordinance is being considered due to provisions on the 2019 Energy Code update, which becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2020.
The current ordinance, though, will apply to all new residential and nonresidential construction.
For existing homes, the ordinance includes one- and two-family residences along with townhomes with an attached garage. In addition, multi-family projects (three or more dwellings) renovating major systems including 2,500 square feet of site work will be triggered with a permit valuation of $200,000 or more.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.