Electrification of buildings and transport

Not every community has major fossil fuel infrastructure like refineries or pipelines, but most jurisdictions have buildings and transport systems that run on fossil fuels and can be electrified.

Buildings are one of the leading sources of climate warming emissions from cities. To combat this, a growing number of jurisdictions are passing policies to power buildings with electricity rather than methane gas and other fossil fuels. Electrifying space and water heating and ideally all appliances protects local health and safety and global climate. Many policies affect new construction. Some cities, such as New York City, are going even further and finding creative ways to responsibly phase fossil fuels out of existing buildings as well.

The benefits of getting fossil fuels out of buildings goes beyond the climate. A growing body of research is showing that despite being dubbed “natural” by the fossil fuel industry, the methane gas many people rely on for cooking is hazardous to human health. Methane gas is especially harmful to kids, with children growing up in homes with gas stoves suffering from asthma symptoms at the same rate as children who live with a smoker.

Electrification policies can also extend to vehicles and power generation. Fossil fuel based transportation emissions are expected to be the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution over the next few decades. Cities can take action towards moving people and goods without polluting our communities, and we’ve seen a number of jurisdictions mandate new buses will be all-electric and use Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) to ensure their community runs on 100% renewable energy.


Examples of electrification policies

Berkeley cityscape

Berkeley, California

In July of 2019, Berkeley unanimously voted to adopt a "first in the nation" ordinance that prohibited gas in all new construction – kicking off a wave of cities that would also pursue building electrification policies. Berkeley’s gas ordinance was unique because it did not go through the traditional reach code route, which requires approval from the California Energy Commission (CEC). Instead, Berkeley used its city authority to phase out new gas hookups on the grounds of public health and safety.

Times Square

New York City, New York

In 2019, New York City passed the "Climate Mobilization Act", dubbed by proponents as New York City's own Green New Deal and known now as Local Law 97. Amongst other things, the law requires large buildings to be increasingly more energy efficient, cracking down on the largest piece of New York's carbon footprint by gradually phasing out fossil fuels in buildings and creating thousands of good jobs within the city.

electric buses all in a row

Shenzhen, China

In 2018, Shenzhen electrified its entire bus fleet – 16,000 buses. And in 2021, they made another huge achievement: electrifying every taxi in the city, 22,000 cars. Shenzhen leads the world on cutting carbon emissions from transport via electrification policies.

The three categories of SAFE policies

Explore SAFE Cities around the world