February 2021

This year has taught us anew the importance of buildings where we live and work - and especially in the midst of winter, the value of heat. Buildings represent a major opportunity as we seek to remove fossil fuel pollution from the atmosphere.

Commercial and residential buildings account for 40% of U.S. energy usage. And 70 million homes and businesses burn fossil fuels to heat and cook, generating 10% of total US Co2 emissions, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute.

While great progress is being made in turning the electricity sector greener with the growth of solar and wind power, much less attention has been paid to heating. Fracked gas is artificially cheap since there is generally no accounting for the cost of its pollution.

That is starting to change. Just as a big push toward electric vehicles is gaining strength, so is policy interest in reducing or eliminating the fossil fuels used in buildings.

In this month's newsletter, we look at some of the efforts underway to address this challenge.
The Colorado Legislature will resume its session Feb. 16 and bills will be introduced on these topics and many others. Follow the General Assembly action
Modernizing Gas Energy Efficiency Programs

To help consumers save money on heating and reduce their environmental impact, regulators require certain utilities to provide incentives for cost-effective ways to use less gas.

By making a more accurate comparison between the cost of energy efficiency measures and the cost of natural gas, more measures will qualify for rebates. Key to this modernization is accounting for the cost of fossil methane pollution and carbon dioxide pollution in calculating the cost of gas. A bill in the Colorado legislative session sponsored by Rep. Tracey Bernett and Sen. Chris Hansen will seek to modernize the Gas Demand Side Management program.

 The bill is expected to set utility goals for gas savings. It will ensure that low and moderate income consumers receive a substantial share of the benefits, and that innovative technologies - such as solar thermal heating- can receive incentives.
Moving to All-Electric Homes

A key technology for moving from gas-heated to electric heated homes and buildings are heat pumps.

Air source heat pumps have improved in efficiency and in cold weather performance in recent years. Ground source heat pumps use the stable temperature of the ground to provide heating and cooling.

To transition existing homes from gas to electric, and to build all-electric new homes, heat pumps, along with electric water heaters, will be needed. But replacing a gas furnace with a heat pump is an expensive proposition, even if the finances make sense over time.

Additionally, energy efficiency measures, solar thermal heating systems and passive solar design all have important roles to play. Finding innovative ways to finance and subsidize the transition will be a key policy challenge. Watch for bills in the Colorado legislature and elsewhere this year addressing this challenge.

Photo credit: www.mrrenewables.co.uk
Requiring Buildings To Waste Less Energy

Building codes are a critical way to require more efficient buildings in the future. Some communities are already addressing the need to lessen the use of fossil methane or propane in buildings. San Francisco recently voted to ban natural gas in new buildings.

Denver recently finalized its Net Zero Energy New Buildings and Homes Implementation Plan which calls for Net Zero Energy, all-electric new homes in the 2024 Building Code.  

Some cities have passed ordinances requiring owners of large buildings to measure and report their energy use annually. A bill expected in the legislative session will make a similar requirement statewide, with lower-performing buildings required to make upgrades.
Learn About Solar Energy and Heat Pumps for Your Home
If you are curious about how you might reduce your home's use of fossil fuels for heating, the Metro Denver Green Homes Tour is for you.

Through our virtual tour, you can see how your neighbors transformed regular houses into extraordinary homes, and how builders created homes that use net zero energy. Short videos will make you feel like you are learning directly from the homeowners.

You can see energy-saving technologies in action including solar electricity from PV panels, Solar heat from thermal panels, air source and ground source heat pumps, and efficiency measures throughout. You can find tips for your home by watching videos and listening to expert lectures from top pros.

Join Our Community and Take Action!
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It is free, quick and easy to sign up! By joining our community, you can keep informed and join others in taking action.

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Three Stories We Think You'll Want to Read

Upcoming Events

Feb. 11: 5:30 p.m. - Pre-Session Virtual Town Hall
Senator Steve Fenberg, Representatives Edie Hooton and Judy Amabile

Feb.12-21: Virtual Colorado Environmental Film Festival

Feb. 18: 7 p.m.- Managing Climate Risk in Financial Markets
Speaker: Bob Litterman
Energy Tips: From Cheap to Steep
Is Your Home Heated By the Sun?
In the 1950s, burning fossil fuels with furnaces controlled by a thermostat was the latest invention for mass produced homes. Sadly, not much has changed.

Using PV Solar panels or solar thermal panels, homes can now be heated using the sun. Choices are:
1)     CHEAP : Electric Space Heaters
2)     BETTER: Air to Air Heat Pumps
3)     BEST: The most efficient Air to Air Heat Pumps, Solar Thermal Heat Systems or Ground Source Heat Pumps.

For more information: New Energy Colorado/ Forums: FROM CHEAP TO STEEP: Moving to Electric Heat By John Avenson

Newsletter produced for New Energy Colorado by Rebecca Cantwell