Building Electrification
for a Carbon-Free Future

We’re enabling cities and towns to achieve their environmental goals.

Building electrification (or increasing decarbonization) shifts the energy use in homes and businesses from gas-powered appliances to all-electric models. Using energy-efficient electric appliances — like heat pumps and induction cooktops — significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions, improves indoor air quality, and supports a green energy economy.

How Electrification Benefits Your Community

Reduces Pollution

Energy use, including fossil fuels, in buildings is responsible for 25% of California’s air pollution. As more clean energy sources are added to the electric grid, electrifying the building sector is a critical way to reduce emissions.

Improves Indoor Air Quality

Gas appliances, like cooktops and ovens, can adversely impact indoor air quality and health. The nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions they produce contribute to asthma and other health issues. Electric appliances avoid these health risks.

Supports Good Quality Jobs

California’s transition to all-electric buildings could support over 100,000 jobs annually for 25 years. A low-carbon future includes preparing workers as we shift away from fossil fuels. MCE’s workforce development partners provide on-the-job training.

How Communities Can Achieve an Electrified Building Sector

Adopting new building codes can be a useful tool for communities working toward building electrification. Every three years, the State of California updates its Building Standards Code. Local jurisdictions can choose to adopt the state’s standards or implement “reach” codes — building codes that reach beyond state standards and encourage or require all-electric readiness for new buildings. Reach codes also help cities and towns achieve their environmental goals.

CalGreen is the first statewide green building code to be adopted in the nation. It addresses the five divisions of building construction:

  1. Planning and design
  2. Energy efficiency
  3. Water efficiency and conservation
  4. Material conservation and resource efficiency
  5. Environmental quality

Communities throughout the state, including many MCE member communities, have recently adopted reach codes.

Resources to Help You Take the Next Step

Several rebates, incentives, and educational resources are available from MCE and our partners.

Frequently Asked Questions

The electric grid is a network of technologies across a geographic area that brings electricity to your home or business. It includes:

  • Generation — the source of the power. This is the grid component that MCE is responsible for as an energy provider in our service area. MCE buys and helps build clean energy sources to help serve customers’ energy demand.
  • Transmission — carrying power over long distances using large high-voltage power lines. PG&E is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of these lines in our service area.
  • Distribution — bringing the power to local customers, using the power lines that you see in your neighborhood. PG&E is also responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of distribution lines in our service area.
  • Other parts of the grid — including substations, which convert high-voltage power from transmission lines to lower voltages that can be accepted by the distribution system’s power lines, and transformers, which convert power, typically at the distribution level, to an even lower voltage so that it can safely reach homes and businesses.

Ensuring that the grid can reliably serve customers involves many stakeholders. One agency that plays a key role in this is the California Independent Systems Operator, or California ISO, which is charged with ensuring the safe and reliable transportation of electricity on the power grid. As the impartial grid operator and a nonprofit public benefit corporation, the California ISO has no financial interest in any individual segment, ensuring fair and transparent access to the transmission network and market transactions.

Yes, however, infrastructure upgrades and new technologies will be necessary.

Electric utilities forecast customer energy demand years in advance. Because reach codes typically apply to new construction and, in some cases, renovation of existing buildings, the change is gradual and allows ample time for forecasting trends in electrification. Similarly, there is general consensus that utilities can generate enough power to support the growing demand for electric vehicle charging needs.

MCE’s Operational Integrated Resource Plan (pdf) covers trends in energy procurement over the next 10 years, and as an agency, we are already planning for long-term electrification trends throughout our service area.

One challenge to electrification is the need for grid infrastructure upgrades. A study from UC Berkeley, funded with support from the California Energy Commission, found that a number of upgrades to PG&E’s transmission and distribution network in the next decade will be necessary to support electric capacity required for aggressive electrification goals. Berkeley recommends that utilities reduce the uncertainty of future capacity upgrades by updating modeling processes to better capture energy needs on specific distribution circuits.

Despite potential infrastructure challenges, communities and utilities alike can employ several strategies to support a healthy electric grid. The UC Berkeley study referenced above concluded that investment in “non-wires alternatives” like demand response and storage can reduce the required volume of infrastructure upgrade projects.

MCE is already investing heavily in these technologies and programs. MCE’s Peak Flex Market program incentivizes customers to shift energy usage away from peak hours in the summer and during demand response events when the grid is most constrained.

No. Typically, electric “reach” building codes apply only to new construction and will not affect residents or businesses who already have gas appliances. We do, however, encourage switching to electric appliances. Gas appliances, such as cooktops and wall furnaces, contribute to poor indoor air quality that can be harmful to children, pets, and people with asthma or other breathing challenges. Try using an induction cooktop to test the advanced technology in cooking, now recommended by leading chefs.

In some cases, electric appliances may cost more upfront than gas appliances. However, when an appliance reaches the end of its useful life, we recommend replacing it with an electric appliance for these key reasons:

  • Rebates and Incentives — To offset the initial cost of electric appliances, MCE, local, state, and federal agencies offer a number of rebates and incentives. Interested in purchasing a new heat pump, induction stove, or furnace? Find rebates for your home.
  • Energy Efficiency — New appliances are becoming more energy efficient each year. Older refrigerators, for example, use 3x more energy than new, energy-efficient models. By using less energy through energy-efficient appliances, customers can save on monthly bills.
  • Gas Rates — The price of natural gas in California continues to rise, with early 2023 having some of the highest consumer costs on record. Going all electric eliminates the need for natural gas in the home and could help lower utility bills in the long term.

 

Today’s modern electric appliances are more efficient than those using natural gas — electric appliances use less energy and therefore cost less to operate. Initial costs can be higher for these products, but when you factor in rebates and incentives available and lower costs over the life of the equipment, using electric appliances is generally more cost effective.

​​When purchasing energy for customers, MCE is subject to the same market conditions as any energy provider. The commodity chain — the process of energy production, distribution, and consumption — is subject to market volatility based on customer demand for both renewable and fossil fuel sources of energy. This makes it challenging to say that renewable energy will always be less expensive in the short term; however, trends in the energy industry suggest that renewable sources will greatly outpace fossil fuels in terms of cost effectiveness into the future.

Recent studies endorsed by the United Nations show that amid rising fossil fuel prices, investments in renewables in 2021 saved $55 billion in global energy generation costs in 2022.

In addition, as the California electric grid continues evolving, MCE and other electricity providers are investing heavily in distributed energy resources. Because of investments in energy storage, it is expected that California’s energy storage portfolio could yield net grid benefits of up to $1.6 billion a year by 2032. Investments in battery storage and other new technologies represent a climate-friendly and efficient way for MCE to manage supply and demand for our customers in a cost-competitive manner.

Finally, the cost of failing to transition to renewable energy is too high. Climate change remains a serious threat, and widespread adoption of renewable energy is a critical tool to keep the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C within reach. A just transition to a clean-energy economy is necessary to reduce energy-related carbon dioxide emissions and limit the effects of climate change for future generations.

MCE, other utilities, and the State of California are working diligently to increase the reliability of our electric grid. Energy-efficiency improvements and shifting energy usage away from peak hours (4–9 pm) are helping to reduce the risk of power outages. PG&E’s wildfire safety plan is also focused on reducing the need for Public Safety Power Shutoff events and making them as short as possible.

Installing a home energy storage system (commonly known as a battery) can also help you keep your electricity on when the power goes out.

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