Tuesday’s City Council meeting will be electrifying — no, really.

The council will discuss how to electrify Santa Monica’s buildings as the city pursues an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, a goal the council adopted when it approved the Climate Action & Adaptation Plan (CAAP) in May. To meet that target, the city may incentivize or require replacing heating and cooking equipment powered by natural gas with electric alternatives.

Buildings and vehicles generate the majority of Santa Monica’s carbon emissions, according to city staff’s report on the council item. The city recently switched residents and businesses to a 100% renewable electricity provider, so natural gas is now the only significant source of carbon emissions in buildings.

While electric appliances are commercially available, they have a small market share and many homes need additional electrical work to accommodate them, according to the report.

To meet its carbon emissions goals, the city will have to boost consumer awareness of the technology, change local building code and provide financial retrofit incentives, the report said.

The city of Berkeley recently banned natural gas in new low-rise buildings, but the report cautions that approach is subject to legal challenges and did not recommend an outright ban on natural gas.

“The strategies and technologies to reduce carbon emissions from the electricity and transportation sectors are largely clear. The emissions from natural gas – despite being smaller – are much more challenging to eliminate or replace,” sustainability analyst Drew Lowell wrote in the report. “Time is of the essence to deliver as much reductions as possible to avoid worsened climate change impacts.”

Natural gas is primarily sourced from petroleum-based fossil fuels and is more than 90% methane, which is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Extracting, producing, transporting and storing natural gas results in methane leaks at a rate of up to 3%, according to the report.

“This unmitigated amount of methane released into the atmosphere will have lasting impacts on the climate,” Lowell wrote.

While renewable natural gas is one alternative, its scarcity and high cost relative to renewable electricity makes it unlikely to ever meet a significant share of the demand for natural gas, according to the report. It also still consists largely of methane and still leaks into the atmosphere.

Electric heating and cooking equipment, on the other hand, is twice as efficient as natural gas and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Building electrification is becoming more cost-effective as technologies improve and become widespread, the report said.

Electric equipment also does not generate carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and other hazards that can cause adverse health effects.

“Building new all-electric single-family homes saves in construction costs, and on utility bills,” Lowell wrote. “Building electrification can also protect customers from unpredictable fluctuating and increasing fossil fuel costs.”

The report suggests heat pumps as an alternative to natural gas heating appliances. Heat pumps heat and cool rooms by moving heat from one place to another, taking advantage of temperature differentials.

Stoves and clothes dryers account for nearly all other residential natural gas consumption, according to the report. Energy-efficient dryers and electric induction cooktops and ovens are widely available, but more expensive than their natural gas versions.

New homes built with electric equipment avoid the cost of gas infrastructure and yields lifetime savings or marginal cost increases compared to natural gas, according to the report.

While electrifying existing buildings can be cost-effective in the long run, it would be expensive to replace electrical infrastructure to accommodate higher electricity demand, the report said.

The report suggests that the city could support model residential projects with modest financial incentives and promote the buildings as neighborhood information centers for curious property owners.

“Electrification of buildings will require a cultural acceptance of technologies and behavior change,” Lowell wrote. “Property owners are likely to be reluctant to embrace an all-electric building without a strong familiarity, understanding and comfort level with the technology, occupant comfort, lifestyle changes and costs.”

The City Council will meet Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall, 1685 Main St.

madeleine@smdp.com