Intro to Electrification and Electric Vehicles
Welcome to the eleventh installment of Sterling Ranch's crash course on energy! In this email, we'll share information about how electrification opens up opportunities to drastically reduce carbon emissions and what electrification can look like in a home.
What is Electrification, and Why Are We Talking About it?
If you follow energy news, you've likely seen the word electrification begin to pop up more and more frequently over the past few years. This is a trend that can be explained by the growing expert consensus that electrification is one of the most impactful mitigation strategies that we can deploy against climate change. Simply put, electrification refers to the large scale transitioning of devices powered by fossil fuel combustion to models powered instead by electricity and batteries. It plays into the larger trend of decarbonization, which is the decoupling of carbon emissions from the core systems and industries that run our society.
Electrification holds the potential to dramatically reduce emissions across sectors. It's possible to produce zero-carbon electricity that can power machines with no emissions, whereas technology powered by fossil fuel combustion such as gas stoves and heaters will always has a set amount of emissions associated with the fuel's combustion. With the electricity mix that we find on our grid becoming cleaner by the day, trading out combustion-powered appliances in favor of electric ones allows you to access energy with an increasingly lower climate impact. The production of clean electricity itself is also more efficient than the production of energy through fossil fuel combustion, as fossil fuel power plants have a thermodynamic limit to the efficiency they can achieve (their "Carnot Limit") of around 51%.1 This means that opting for electric-powered machines reduces the energy cost of operating the machine.

The difference between Sterling Ranch's community goals of being powered by 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and being powered by a completely carbon neutral energy supply by 2040 is electrification. The first goal involves implementing Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) such as solar panels within our community and reducing our overall community energy consumption through efficiency measures to make it more manageable, and the second goal involves transitioning our remaining natural gas infrastructure (such as gas heating) to electric systems that are powered by the grid that Xcel Energy is working to make cleaner every year.

For residents, the most relevant applications of decarbonization to your home life are in the residential and transportation sectors. The following segments on home electrification and Electric Vehicles (EVs) will discuss what electrification looks like in these sectors respectively.
What does Home Electrification Look Like?

Today, the most common natural gas appliances in homes are gas space heaters, gas water heaters, and range stoves. Depending on your home, you may have other appliances powered by natural gas such as laundry dryers, which you can find by checking your connection lines. Home electrification involves changing out all of these systems for electric ones.

Luckily, there are a host of benefits of electrifying beyond environmental ones!
Electric Space Heating
Currently, natural gas furnaces are the most common type of home heating equipment in every US region but the Southeast.2 A 2018 study by the Rocky Mountain Institute found that for new construction projects, retrofit projects in which customers need to simultaneously replace air conditioning and heating systems, and for customers who own or lease solar systems, installing an electric heat pump system is financially advantageous compared to installing new gas heating systems.3 Customers with solar systems experience additional savings if they're charged Time of Use (TOU) electricity rates, which Sterling Ranch's utility Xcel Energy rolled out 2022. Check out Xcel Energy's heat pump rebates to find out how switching to a heat pump can be even more affordable!
Electric Water Heaters
For Xcel Energy electric customers, rebates are available ranging from $600-800 to support customers switching from a natural gas water heater to a qualifying electric water heater. Electric water heaters typically have a lower purchase price than natural gas heaters, operate more efficiently, last two to three years longer than gas heaters, and pose fewer health and safety risks associated with the improper ventilation of toxic outlet fumes.4
Electric or Induction Stoves
Beyond the climate benefits of switching from a gas range to an electric coil stove (or to an even more efficient induction stove), there's a very real health case for abandoning your gas range stove. A 2020 report found that homes with gas stoves can contain approximately 50 to 400 percent higher concentrations of NO2 than homes with electric stoves, resulting in "levels of indoor air pollution that would be illegal outdoors" and that have lead medical experts to question a possible link between gas range usage and pediatric asthma.5 In the case of stoves, electrifying is beneficial for both the climate and human health.
Electric Vehicles
According to the Environmental Protection Agency's 2019 emissions inventory pictured to the right, the transportation sector generates the largest share of US greenhouse gas emissions of any sector at 29%.6 With transportation making up such a large portion of our national emissions, growing the share of low-carbon Electric Vehicles (EVs) on our roads is one of the smartest climate moves we can make.

In 2018, Colorado released its first Electric Vehicle plan and established goals to achieve approximately 940,000 EVs in Colorado by 2030, increase the number of employers that provide workplace charging stations to employees, and prepare property owners for future investments in EV charging infrastructure.7 With the plan's outlined strategies entering implementation, EV ownership will become progressively more convenient for Colorado residents and provide a host of new reasons beyond the existing tax credits and ownership benefits to trade out your gas-powered car for an electric one. As supporters of EV technology, the Sterling Ranch community has taken planning actions to simplify the process of becoming an EV owner: every Sterling Ranch home comes pre-wired with the ability to install an EV charging cable in your garage, making the switch to an EV as simple as putting in a charger and buying your model.

For more information on the many benefits of switching to an EV as well as the financial incentives and rebates available to Sterling Ranch residents as Xcel Energy customers, check out Xcel Energy's EV page below!
Colorado's Commitment to Electrification
In July 2021, Colorado passed SB21-246, a bill that directed investor-owned utilities (such as Xcel Energy) to create incentives for households and businesses to upgrade to efficient electric appliances that reduce their bills.8 The bill passed with support from organized labor and environmental groups and marks a huge step forward for the state of Colorado in supporting a just energy transition.

After years of the case for beneficial electrification gaining an ever increasing base of support among energy experts, these new policies highlight the progress that Colorado is making on bringing this climate mitigation strategy to fruition.

Tips for Energy Action
  • Think about what gas systems and appliances you have in your home. If your home is new it may not make sense to swap out your appliances for electric ones today, but when it comes time to upgrade your home's systems, keep the environmental and health benefits of electrification in mind as you assess your options.
  • If recent regulatory changes are any indication, electrification is coming. Keep an eye on energy news and continue learning about what energy usage habits you can adopt to best support an electrified grid as a residential electricity customer.