October 2021

As the leaves turn and the temperatures drop, the nesting impulse increases. In early October, thousands of people enjoyed the Metro Denver Green Homes tour and similar tours around the country. They learned what homeowners have done to bring their dwellings to net zero energy - using no more energy than they produce. Through smart design, creative retrofits and innovative appliances, homes can be made more comfortable while their owners save energy and money. But even much more modest changes can make a difference. In this issue, we look at some efforts to make buildings more efficient.

Sunny regards,
Rebecca Cantwell 
for New Energy Colorado
Buildings Deserve a Bigger Role in Meeting Climate Goals

From the local to the global, increasing attention is turning to making buildings more efficient.

The #BuildingToCOP26 Coalition — a group of business and government networks focused on sustainability in the built environment — are spotlighting the urgency of including buildings in climate action goals. Buildings are responsible for almost 40% of global carbon emissions from energy use, but less than $3 of every $100 spent on new construction goes to efficient buildings, the group notes. The coalition is hoping the international climate gathering this fall will endorse a goal of cutting in half the emissions of the built environment by 2030, with 100% of new buildings net zero carbon in operation.

In the US, even states with aggressive goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions have limited plans for using energy more efficiently, says a new report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy ( ACEEE). Expanded energy efficiency efforts can help reduce the costs of meeting clean electricity standards, aid in the electrification of home equipment and transportation and make the transition to a decarbonized economy more equitable. 

The six utilities that provide 91% of Colorado’s electricity have committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2030 - and buildings will be a big part of the solution.
 Help is Available to Homeowners

Most utilities offer rebates for some energy improvements. Other programs are available for lower-income consumers. Here are some resources to help you get started:

Weatherization Assistance
Low income residents are eligible for free energy upgrades focusing on the home as a system. Some of the measures that may be included are air sealing, furnace repair or replacement, insulation, LED light bulbs, refrigerator replacements and solar photovoltaics. More information: Weatherization Assistance Program | Colorado Energy Office

Utility Rebates
Many utilities offer rebates to customers for implementing measures to save energy. Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility, offers residential customers rebates on insulation and air sealing, some high-efficiency equipment, and discounts on LED lights, smart thermostats and some other products. More information: Residential Services | Xcel Energy

Heat Pumps
Increasing attention is turning to electrifying homes because of the climate warming impacts of burning natural gas ( methane) in homes. One of the prime technologies is an air-source heat pump which can provide heating and cooling. Newer heat pumps work well in cold climates. Forty of Colorado’s 52 utilities now provide some kind of rebate for heat pumps. All of the rebates – and more information about electrification of homes- can be found at loveelectric.org/rebates. 
Tracking and Cutting Energy Use in Buildings
Both the city of Denver and the state of Colorado are moving forward with efforts to require buildings to track and then cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Denver is ahead of the curve- the unanimous recommendations of a diverse task force are going to City Council for consideration within the month.
The group found that buildings could cut their emissions by nearly 80% by 2040 if Denver will:
-Set building specific energy use intensity targets that achieve at least 30% total energy savings across all buildings by 2030. Installing solar energy would count for energy savings.
-Require building owners to partially electrify space and water heating at the time of system replacement, and
-Provide resources and incentives to aid the buildings sector in making this transition, especially buildings serving under resourced people.
The policies recommended by the task force would result in a cumulative emission reduction of 11.8 million metric tons of CO2 saved between now and 2040.
If you live in Denver, now is a good time to contact your City Council representative to express support for these goals.

Meanwhile, the state is working to implement a law passed in the 2021 legislative session that requires buildings over 50,000 square feet to report their energy use, and then work to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions. A state task force was appointed and recently held its first meeting. Use this link to track their progress or get more involved,
Visit The Virtual Metro Denver Green Homes Tour!
The in-person tour October 2 was a big success. The Metro Denver Green Home Tour was one of 133 local solar tours featuring more than 1,900 solar sites in 49 states, DC and Puerto Rico. The National Solar Tour is sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society.

Thanks to our sponsors: Bestway Insulation, Golden Real Estate, City of Golden, Resolution Energy, Colorado Environmental Film Festival, Colorado Green Building Guild, Ewers Architecture ,Golden Solar, Mitsubishi, AE Building Systems, Buglet Solar Electric, GB3 Energy, Heart of a Building, Thames Solar Electric, Adaptation Environmental Service, Advanced Energy Systems , Burdick Technology Unlimited ,Colorado Solar and Storage Assoc. (COSSA) ,Green Sheen, Odell’s Brewing Co, Talon Winery, Woody’s Pizza

If you want to learn more about how to save money on your energy and water bills, please visit the 16 locations on the virtual Metro Denver Green Homes Tour.

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Upcoming Events

Southeast CRES Webinar
October 19- 6:30 pm – Renewable Energy in the Rural Electric Cooperative
Holy Cross Energy of Avon, Colorado has set a goal of 100% clean energy by 2030. President and CEO, Bryan Hannegan ,PhD, will discuss the varied and innovative tools they are using to meet this goal, and the challenges unique to rural co-ops. Holy Cross Energy is implementing and exploring a wide range of technologies that include biomass energy generation, solar, energy storage, micro-grids and hydrogen.

The virtual summit is designed for utilities across the Mountain West to get solutions. Decision makers and technical experts such as energy management specialists, business development specialists, and power supply managers are all encouraged to attend. Problem solvers from across the solar and storage industry are invited to help assist with the day-long event sponsored by the Colorado Solar and Storage Association. Information: Clean Energy Solutions Summit

New Denver Solar Co-op launching
The City and County of Denver and the nonprofit organization Solar United Neighbors have partnered to launch the next Denver Solar Co-op. Residents and business owners who want to enjoy a simple process for going solar and save extra money can go together as a group .Income-qualifying members can also receive a $3,000 rebate off the cost of going solar! Learn more and sign-up : solarunitedneighbors.org/Denver

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Energy Tips: From Cheap to Steep
It's time for fall maintenance. To keep houses cool in the summer, swamp coolers, central air conditioners or Mini-split Heat-pumps in multiple rooms provide cooled air. 
All of these units require seasonal maintenance that you can do yourself. Replace the filters, clear pollen and plant fibers from the metal fins, and trim back bushes to allow for free air flow.
 If you see frost on the outdoor compressor fins, the refrigerant is low and needs recharging by a professional service  Before 2010, old units may be using Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) R-22, invented in 1928. The EPA banned R-22 in 2010 and all new units use R-410A. Recharging with R-22 is now as expensive as replacing the old unit with one using R-410A.. In the near future, R-32  (which has one third the global warming potential) will replace R-410A