Reach Code Exploration

On May 20th, 2022, the Town kicked off its partnership with consultants from ID360 to officially begin reach code exploration. The Town has convened a Stakeholder Advisory Committee to explore the various reach code pathways. The Committee met for the first time on June 20th, 2022. The Town is currently in the process of conducting Advisory Committee meetings in tandem with public outreach meetings. Scroll down past the meeting resources to access the FAQs.

Reach Code Process: Development to Implementation

After an initial series of four Stakeholder Committee meetings and two community meetings, Town staff prepared a document summarizing the input received. Based on input from the Stakeholder Committee, staff recommended amending the contract with the Town’s consultants to conduct custom cost-effectiveness studies and support additional community engagement.

COMMUNITY MEETINGS

The Town held two community energy efficiency meetings, one in-person meeting on September 15th and a webinar on September 28th, 2022, which provided an overview of possible reach code routes and gathered community feedback.

Meeting Materials:

STAKEHOLDER COMMITTEE MEETING RESOURCES

Who is on the Stakeholder Advisory Committee?
The Stakeholder Committee is comprised of a diverse group with various interests and perspectives. The group includes representation from the Truckee Donner Public Utilities District (TDPUD), Liberty Utilities, Southwest Gas, the Contractors Association of Tahoe Truckee (CATT), Sugarpine Engineering, Sierra Community House, and Town of Truckee Staff and Council, along with two members from the community at large.

Below, you can watch the meeting recordings and access the Powerpoint slides from the Stakeholder meetings to date.

Meeting 1: Reach Code Overview
Date: June 20th, 2022

The first couple introductory minutes of the presentation are cut off.

Meeting 2: Existing Building Policy Options
Date: July 25th, 2022

Meeting 3: New Construction Policy Options
Date: August 8th, 2022

Meeting 4: Incentives and Education
Date: November 14, 2022

Due to a technical difficulty, the first video has the first ten minutes of the meeting and the second video has the rest. There is a short recording lag at the beginning of the second video.

Meeting 5: New Construction Cost-Effectiveness Studies
Date: May 9, 2024

Meeting 6: New Construction Reach Code Options
Date: June 14, 2024

Meeting 7: Existing Building Reach Code Options
Date: June 18, 2024

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a Reach Code?

A reach code is a law adopted by a local government that creates higher building energy performance standards than those in the State code. Typically, reach codes apply to residential or commercial new construction and sometimes to major renovations or additions. Reach codes can target energy efficiency, energy storage, solar, electric vehicle (EV) readiness, or fuel sources. For example, they could require that buildings perform a certain amount higher than the State energy efficiency requirements (but not dictate a specific path) or they could mandate specific measures like EV readiness in new multifamily construction. There are many options for a reach code.  
 
The requirements for a reach code are that they:  

1) reduce building energy use   
2) are cost effective (meaning they pay for themselves over their lifetime)  
3) are more restrictive than the state code    
4) are re-adopted when the building code is updated every three years   

Why is Truckee considering a reach code? 
The primary goals of the reach code are to cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to improve home air quality and public health. In 2019, the General Plan Advisory Committee created a Climate Action Subcommittee to help guide the creation of policies for Truckee’s Climate Action Plan. Discussions from these subcommittee meetings helped create and prioritize policies and actions related to transportation, land use, energy use, and waste. Using data from Truckee’s 2016 GHG emissions inventory, the Subcommittee noted that emissions from building energy use account for 59% of Truckee’s total community emissions. Thus, the CAP Subcommittee recommended developing a reach code to improve the energy efficiency of our building stock, reduce GHG emissions, and improve indoor air quality through use of efficient, non-polluting appliances. The Town Council directed Town Staff to explore a reach code as part of the FY2021/22-FY2022/23 workplan.

Is the Town of Truckee adopting reach codes? We are far from adoption of any reach codes and have not determined if any would be appropriate for our Truckee Town Council to consider.  

We are in the stage of exploring options, awaiting cost-effectiveness data from the State, and gathering input from the community and stakeholders. Consultants will then perform a local cost-effectiveness analysis (using local construction and contractor rates) to determine which policies would be cost-effective. Based on the policies that are cost-effective, we will then determine which of these, if any, make sense for Truckee. If it is determined that there are reach codes that would be appropriate for Truckee, these options would be presented to the Truckee Town Council for discussion and adoption. During this point, community input and public comment will be taken into consideration.  

Why is the Town of Truckee considering codes that are stricter than state building code requirements? 
One of Town Council’s priorities is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become a leader in environmental sustainability. In Truckee, 59% of our community-wide greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to building energy use, according to the most recent greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Therefore, actions that reduce building energy use will be necessary to meet state and local greenhouse gas reduction targets.   

Will consideration of possible reach codes take into account Truckee-specific data and constraints including our climate and construction costs?  
Yes. The State is conducting an initial analysis that will include Truckee’s climate zone data (Climate Zone 16) and our local utility rates. In addition to the State analysis, the Town has hired consultants to perform a Truckee-specific analysis that will incorporate local weather data, contractor rates, and construction costs. Some of these studies are complete, and Additionally, our Stakeholder Committee is comprised of local experts who work in the construction, energy efficiency and engineering spaces who can provide on-the-ground perspectives on a variety of local considerations. 

Is the Town of Truckee considering banning the use of natural gas?  
No, the Town is not currently considering reach code options for either new construction or existing buildings that would prohibit the use of natural gas. Based on the 2023 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the California Restaurant Association v. City of Berkeley, reach codes and other building code amendments that prohibit the use of natural gas are no longer considered legally viable pathways for local jurisdictions in California. 

Will existing buildings have to get rid of gas appliances?  
No, no matter the policy decision, existing buildings would not have to take out and replace existing gas appliances. Some policy options under consideration include incentivizing use of electric appliances over natural gas appliances or adding requirements to prewire for future electric appliances when gas equipment is installed. 

Are there other mountain towns that have developed similar policies?  Reach codes are currently more common in milder climates, but there are several examples of cold or mountain climates with local building ordinances.  

  • Crested Butte, CO: requires all-electric new construction for residential and commercial construction (with exemptions for commercial cooking) beginning in January 2023. Crested Butte is a small mountain town at 8,900 feet with similar snowfall and colder winter temperatures than Truckee.  
  • Burlington, VT: requires nearly all new buildings to be constructed with at least 85% of the heating load met by a renewable source.  
  • Ithaca, NY: new building construction requirements:
    • 2021: produce 40% fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than those built into State code; 2023: produce 80% fewer emissions; 2026: be net-zero with no use of fossil fuels (with exceptions for cooking and process energy). 
  • City of Denver 
    • For new commercial and additions, requires implementation of one or more measures: green roof space, solar panels, renewable energy purchases, 12% energy cost savings, green building certification such as LEED.  
    • Requires all new buildings to partially electrify space and water heating systems upon system replacement when an electric heat pump is a near cost parity with a gas system replacement. Requirements phase in over the next five years with easy-to-electrify system requirements starting in 2025, and hard-to-electrify systems requirements starting in 2027.  

How much of Truckee’s electricity comes from fossil fuels?  
Though the U.S. grid is only 17% renewable, most of our electricity in Truckee is provided by the Truckee Donner Public Utility District (TDPUD), which sources 60-65% of its energy from renewable sources. The TDPUD is a community-owned, not-for-profit, locally governed public power and water utility. Their electricity is transmitted through NV Energy’s infrastructure but is not sourced from NV Energy.  

The TDPUD sources energy from the following Utah Associated Municipal Power System (UAMPS) projects: Horse Butte Wind, Pleasant Valley Wind, Vejo Heat Recovery, Payson Natural Gas, and Red Mesa Solar (2023). TDPUD also has contracts or purchase power agreements with Western Area Power Administration (WAPA, Stampede hydropower), Truckee Carson Irrigation District (TCID, hydropower), and City of Murray, UT (landfill gas). The rest of TDPUD’s energy (which is unspecified in source) is purchased through the UAMPS pool and market. 

Can you really differentiate between the TDPUD’s clean sources and the rest of Nevada’s electrical grid? Doesn’t it all just get mixed together?  

Yes and no. Though you cannot determine that the specific electrons powering your home came from a solar plant versus a natural gas plant, TDPUD’s investment in clean energy makes the whole pool cleaner. To provide an analogy: Imagine a swimming hole where several water sources flow in and out of it – some dirty and others cleaner. Once the water hits the swimming hole, one can no longer differentiate where it came from. The TDPUD is responsible for some of the streams feeding the swimming hole, and most of those streams are clean. From an “electron” standpoint, we cannot differentiate “our” electricity in Truckee from that larger pool. But from a broader perspective, the TDPUD’s investments in clean energy are making the overall pool cleaner. Both of these perspectives are important.  

How do greenhouse gas emissions from Truckee’s electrical grid compare to emissions from natural gas?  
Electricity generates emissions indirectly, depending on the source of the electricity. Though electricity can be generated from fossil fuels, Truckee’s electricity is from 65% renewable sources (with the above caveat in mind), meaning that it has a smaller greenhouse gas footprint than natural gas. Natural gas is a fossil fuel that produces CO2 when burned, though it produces fewer emissions than coal or oil. However, there are also significant emissions associated with the extraction and distribution processes of natural gas. Pipeline leaks emit methane, a GHG about 34 times as powerful as CO2.  

As a point of comparison, using the TDPUD’s grid emissions and accounting for grid inefficiencies, a 90% efficient gas furnace would be responsible for about 2.3 times the emissions of a heat pump (not accounting for natural gas extraction, leakage, and other lifecycle considerations). Using NV Energy’s power mix (to account for the most conservative estimate) a gas furnace would be responsible for 1.8 times the emissions of a heat pump.  As our grid gets greener, this gap will continue to increase.  

I’ve heard the electric grid is inefficient. How much electricity gets lost during the transmission process?  
It is true that the electric grid loses about 5% of its electricity between the power generator and your home through line losses and other inefficiencies. When this electricity is generated from fossil fuels, then there are additional inefficiencies as the conversion process is only about 40% efficient. Transmission losses associated with piped natural gas are also around 5%. 

Does the grid have enough capacity to keep up with more demand from increased electrification?
According to the TDPUD, the district’s power lines and substations are designed to handle significantly higher electrical loads than we currently use (we are sitting somewhere between 50% and 60% of our current capacity). This means that we have more than enough spare capacity for electrification in the foreseeable future and plenty of time to expand our infrastructure where necessary to prepare for longer term forecasts of electrification load growth. In addition, installing energy efficient appliances will help to reduce this load.  

Are gas appliances more resilient than electric appliances in a power outage?  
No, not necessarily. Any new gas water heater or HVAC system that is up to code (i.e. anything you can buy on the market new these days) will require electricity to perform its critical functions. This means that most gas water heaters and space heaters will not work during a power outage, just like electric appliances. A gas stove will work if the pilot light can be lit manually, though the oven will not. For this reason, it is recommended to have a back-up heat or power source (i.e. pellet stove, back-up generator), no matter your heat source, for those occasions where the power does go out.   

How efficient is using electric versus natural gas appliances?  
New natural gas appliances may have efficiencies around 90% or higher (meaning that for every one unit of energy in, you get 0.9 out). Heat pump HVAC and water heater systems are between 200-400% efficient (ie for every unit of energy in, you get 2-4 out), making them three or more times as efficient as gas technology.  

Will the code create additional construction costs?   
At this time, we do not know what the reach code would contain and cannot say how it would impact construction costs. However, it is worth emphasizing that the reach codes must be cost-effective in order to gain approval from the California Energy Commission. This means that although certain technologies will require an up-front cost, but they will pay for themselves over time.

What are the environmental impacts of batteries?  
Batteries are certainly not without their environmental impacts. For example, some studies have shown that making a typical electric vehicle (EV) can create more carbon pollution than making a gasoline car. Still, over the lifetime of the vehicle, total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with manufacturing, charging, and driving an EV are typically lower than the total GHGs associated with a gasoline car. That’s because EVs have zero tailpipe emissions and are typically responsible for significantly fewer GHGs during operation. The data represented in the graph below is from researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory. In their estimates, while GHG emissions from EV manufacturing and end-of-life are higher (shown in orange below), total GHGs for the EV are still lower than those for the gasoline car. This comparison assumes U.S. average grid emissions, which are, again, much more carbon intensive than our grid in Truckee.   

For additional questions or comments on the Town of Truckee’s Reach Code exploration process, please email Sustainability@TownofTruckee.com.

RESOURCES

Energy Reach Codes:

Electric Vehicle Charging:

Statewide Codes & Standards team “Reach Codes Newcomers” webinar series:

2025 Code Cycle Updates:

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