Colorado just made it easier to convert your home from gas-powered to electric

The state legislature passed four bills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by converting their homes from gas-powered to electric. These bills will also help consumers save money and breathe cleaner air inside. It's cause for celebration. 

It’s no secret that we need to tackle climate change. 

We recently got out of a week-long heatwave, and fire season is already upon us. Both will be made worse by climate change. 

Most Coloradans want government officials to take stronger action to tackle climate change

Right now, transportation is the largest source of climate change emissions in Colorado, and I’m glad the state is working to expand clean vehicle adoption by working with companies to put up electric vehicle chargers across the state, from our state parks to convenience stores, to make sure that everyone has access to a charger when they need one. 

We also need to move from gas-powered to electric-powered in another key part of our economy - buildings.  

As we reduce emissions from transportation, other sectors of the economy will take over as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. According to a 2019 report by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as we make progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, Residential, Commercial, and Industrial Fuel Use -- emissions from heating cooling our homes and other buildings-- will become the second largest source of Colorado’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2030. Given more time, it could eclipse transportation as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Our buildings don’t only produce climate change pollution. They produce other forms of air pollution that can harm our health. For example, our gas stoves produce carbon monoxide, which can reduce the amount of oxygen getting through your body if you breathe it in. If you breathe in too much, it can kill you. That’s why we have carbon monoxide detectors in our homes to alert us of any carbon monoxide leaks and keep us safe. 

You might not think that a single stove could make the difference between having healthy, clean air in your home or not, but studies show that this is, unfortunately, exactly the case. 

A study by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University looked at the effects of gas stoves on indoor air quality in California homes and found that gas stoves increase the concentration of carbon monoxide emissions in homes between 21-30%, depending on the time of year. A UCLA Fielding School of Public Health study found that using a gas stovetop and oven for an hour results in air quality that would be illegal under national outdoor air quality standards, especially in small homes and those without range hoods.

We shouldn’t have to choose between breathing clean air and cooking our food or doing other basic activities in our homes. 

Fortunately, the Colorado state legislature took action this year to ensure that Coloradans can breathe clean air inside our homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time by passing four bills to tackle climate change emissions and indoor air pollution created by gas-powered buildings. 

The first bill is HB21-1238 - Public Utilities Commission Modernize Demand-side Management Standards, and is sponsored by Representative Tracey Bernett and Senator Chris Hansen. 

The bill would require the Public Utilities Commission to include the cost of carbon emissions when it calculates how cost-effective demand-side management programs are so those calculations can be more accurate. Demand-side management programs are strategies that utilities can implement to help consumers reduce the amount of energy they use. Programs like these reduce climate change emissions and save consumers money because they will pay lower utility bills as they use less energy. Now that demand-side management program evaluations will be more comprehensive, consumers will have an even greater range of options for reducing their energy use and saving money.

The second bill is SB21-246 - Electric Utility Promote Beneficial Electrification, sponsored by Senator Stephen Fenberg and Representatives Alex Valdez and Meg Froelich. 

SB21-246 would require electric utilities that are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission to develop programs that will help consumers convert their homes from gas-powered to electric. Right now, there are about 2.2 million homes in Colorado, and 1.6 million of them have gas-powered systems for things like heat, hot water, and cooking food via gas stoves. That means only about 24% of homes in Colorado are heated by electricity, and getting to 100% will be critically important to tackling climate change and indoor air pollution.

The third bill is HB21-1286 - Energy Performance for Buildings, sponsored by Representatives Cathy Kipp and Alex Valdez and Senators Kevin Priola and Brittany Pettersen. 

This bill would require owners of large buildings to report their energy use and implement energy performance standards that would result in more efficient energy use and a reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions over time. According to a report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, cities in Colorado have already implemented benchmarking policies and have seen reduced greenhouse gas emissions as a result. For example, building performance standards have successfully reduced emissions in Boulder, where the city saved 1.9 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and averted 3.9 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in only eight years

The last bill is SB21-264 - Adopt Programs Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Utilities, sponsored by Senator Chris Hansen and Representatives Alex Valdez and Tracey Bernett. 

This bill would direct gas utilities to make plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions that come from heating and cooling our homes and businesses. Going right to the source of pollution, the gas utilities, and making them reduce their greenhouse gas emissions will create a chain reaction that reduces the greenhouse gas emissions that are produced by our homes and businesses. 

I’ve talked a lot about how these bills will help the environment and our health, but they’ll also help consumers in another way. These bills will help Coloradans get lower utility bills as we use less energy and convert our homes from gas-powered to electric. An electric stove may cost a bit more upfront than a gas-powered stove, but it will save consumers money in the long run. 

I am grateful to Representatives Alex Valdez, Tracey Bernett, Meg Froelich, and Cathy Kipp, Senate Majority Leader Stephen Fenberg, and Senators Chris Hansen, Kevin Priola, and Brittany Pettersen for their tireless work to get these bills through the legislature and on the Governor’s desk and I’m glad Governor Polis signed the bill so we can ensure we’re doing what we can to reduce emissions inside and outside of our homes and businesses.