CB Council Continues March Toward Electrification Requirement – The Crested Butte News


Leading the way in Colorado

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

Although the deal is not yet done, members of the Crested Butte City Council on Monday expressed comfort in being the first municipality in Colorado to require new construction in town to be all-electric for heating, hot water heating and appliances. If the council approves updated building codes next month, the city could essentially require all new commercial and residential construction to be fully electrified from 2023, with some exceptions, such as allowing commercial kitchens to use gas .

Done in conjunction with an update to the 2015 building codes currently in place, staff recommended that the council adopt the 2021 ICC (International Building Council) building code with minor modifications, but also introduced so-called ” above the code regarding energy efficiency, renewables, electric vehicle readiness and electrification and commit to amending and improving the code every three years going forward. to the recommendation while seeking answers to several questions, mainly concerning the impact on costs.

One element of the proposed building code that the council will look more closely at to possibly save money is the proposed requirement to include fire sprinklers in duplexes. They are currently mandatory for buildings that are triplexes or more. A public hearing on the new building codes will be held at the August 2 council meeting.

During Monday’s meeting, members of the public generally supported the shift to electrification while representatives from Atmos Energy, the city’s natural gas supplier, said the council was going too far, too fast. with the above code requirements and could actually harm the immediate of the city. Climate Action Plan (CAP) targets given the current state of power generation.

“We fully support the adoption of the 2021 building code and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,” commented Randy Butler of Atmos. “But be aware that implementing electrification policies will increase greenhouse gas emissions in the current energy mix. Natural gas is an extremely important tool for reducing emissions in Colorado. Current electrification does not match city current climate goals.

“Achieving our shared goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Crested Butte will require innovation from all energy sectors, smart use of the city’s infrastructure and careful consideration of the impact on homes and businesses in Crested Butte,” a letter from Atmos said. “Natural gas and the natural gas distribution system are important tools for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Crested Butte and throughout Gunnison County. We strongly encourage the City of Crested Butte to preserve customer choice and focus on the true goal of reducing emissions rather than supporting specific fuels or technologies.

Local geologist Peter Dea supported the use of natural gas in a letter to council “As complex and vulnerable as some energy sources are, we need to be thoughtful and consider the expected and unforeseen consequences and costs of certain actions” , he wrote. “Wind and solar are great additions to a reliable baseload source of energy. However, they only do one thing, generate electricity, and only intermittently. Natural gas provides a clean source of continuous (“farm”) baseload energy and is a good partner for solar and wind power.

In a memo to council from Crested Butte long-range planner Mel Yemma and building manager Astrid Matison, staff made it clear that the aim of the “above-code requirements” was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from greenhouse from new construction and major renovations through increased construction. energy efficiency, using on-site renewable energy opportunities like solar panels, mandating electrification to use an increasingly cleaner power grid, and preparing for electric vehicles by mandating the preparation of charging stations for electric vehicles.

Among other proposed requirements is one that would require all commercial buildings under 5,000 square feet to “be solar-ready” with the ability to accommodate solar panels in the future. Buildings over 5,000 square feet should install and use solar panels. The city would remove the existing requirement that requires buildings over 20,000 square feet to be LEED certified. EV chargers will be required for new commercial buildings. New residential construction should achieve Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) certification.

“If approved, Crested Butte would be the first jurisdiction in Colorado to not allow natural gas in buildings beginning in 2023,” the staff memo notes.

Matison pointed out that in 2021, only two new commercial projects received building permits while 16 new homes were authorized. “It’s kind of like baby steps,” she said.

There are approximately 26 vacant commercial lots remaining in the city and 58 vacant single-family residential lots and 13 vacant multi-family residential lots.

“Being the first municipality in Colorado to do this is an extra burden to bear, so we need to clearly lay out the logic of going there,” Mayor Ian Billick said.

“Congress and the Supreme Court have failed us over the past two weeks by not addressing climate change,” said Jeff Delaney of the Gunnison County Climate Coalition. “The urgency of the situation forces us to act locally because that is all we have left. We encourage the adoption of new building codes and the electrification of buildings.

Is electrification possible with current technology?

“It looks like the technology is not completely there yet for full electrification,” said board member Mallika Magner. “I’m a little troubled by that. Do local contractors like plumbers have the capacity? »

“It’s a technological shift,” acknowledged Matt Feier, strategy execution specialist with the Gunnison County Electric Association (GCEA). “Local entrepreneurs are learning new technology, and we’re doing things like seminars to help familiarize them. The number of all-electric homes in the county is still quite low.

Local sustainable builder Don Smith agreed, but said the model was there and working. “We have built fully electric houses in the valley and they are working very well,” he said. “We’ve had good success with that.”

“For me, I’m also interested in cost differentials,” Magner said. “What will be the initial costs? I am interested in understanding this.

Billick said he’s still confused about comparing the operating costs of an all-electric building and one that runs on natural gas. Council member Jason MacMillan said he also wanted this information clarified. He also said it would be helpful to see the cost of sets of comparable devices.

City Manager Dara MacDonald said it was becoming increasingly clear that while the initial costs of electrification would be higher than typical building practices currently in use, annual operating costs would likely be lower. . The Council also wanted more depth and detail on this equation.

“We want to be sure that annual costs will be lower in the Sixth and Butte and Paradise Park affordable housing projects, for example,” MacMillan said. “This benefit should go to working tenants or owners. Month after month after initial costs.

Council member Chris Haver wanted to know why staff consider natural gas to be as polluting as electricity generation given that much of today’s electricity is generated from coal. Yemma explained that given the leakage of natural gas as it travels to the municipality, to the house and even inside a house, makes it comparable to electricity generated by some coal-fired power plants. Haver pointed out that the leak would continue to occur with current gas lines with or without full city electrification. The board also wanted a more in-depth analysis of this comparison.

Cillian Barrett, designer and construction supervisor at Habitat for Humanity, pointed out that by going all-electric, it was possible to generate electricity as part of the building through things like solar panels. He said that was not possible with natural gas. He also said that the latest Habitat homes were all electric and worked very well with extremely low utility bills. “Realize that higher upfront costs improve the quality of life for residents and the community as a whole.”

Citizen Kent Cowherd supported the electrification movement and said that as an architect building envelopes could be made extremely tight so heating systems became more efficient. City staff had penciled in that gas boilers were significantly cheaper than using heat pumps to heat a home. He suggested possibly phasing in the transition to all-electric over a few years and said the city could eventually offer incentives to get people to choose things like heat pumps.

The Council wants a clear picture of the costs

Overall, the board wanted a more detailed analysis of return on investment (ROI), but agreed that such a detailed assessment might not be possible given the fluctuations in the energy sector.

“It would be helpful if these kinds of cost examples were based on what we’re dealing with here in Crested Butte today rather than an average Colorado home from three years ago,” MacMillan added.

When asked directly, council members all said they were comfortable continuing to go down the road of mandatory electrification for new construction in town. They want a more detailed analysis of some cost ramifications, but agreed to stay the course.

“I’m comfortable with the staff recommendation,” Councilor Beth Goldstone summed up. “I also love how they used the Community Compass Emerging Values ​​to explain their recommendation. I love where it’s going and I’m thrilled that this little town of Crested Butte can show that it can work. We can be example. And if something goes wrong, we will come back to the building code in three years.

Billick said he was not strongly in favor of extending fire sprinkler requirements to duplexes. He said he saw it as a way to reduce construction costs. “I’m not big on that and I’m willing to be in the minority on this one,” he said.

The rest of council has requested another cost-benefit analysis of the sprinkler requirement in duplexes and will consider the matter at the August 2 public hearing.

A copy of the staff report summarizing the ordinance and proposed ordinance can be viewed on the town’s website at www.townofcrestedbutte.com > Town Council E Packets or through Town Hall.


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