The transition to renewable heating and cooling will cost-effectively bring many benefits to Denverites by providing air conditioning as temperatures rise, reducing children’s exposure to carbon monoxide and rapidly mitigating climate change by reducing potent methane emissions.
Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency (CASR) has released its Renewable Heating and Cooling Plan to transition the City and County’s homes and buildings toward a cost-effective, equitable, climate-safe future.
“The Renewable Heating and Cooling Plan will improve the lives of residents and business owners across the City and reduce emissions over the next 20 years,” said Mayor Michael Hancock. “The transition to renewable heating and cooling will provide air conditioning to those who lack it today, improve safety, and lower exposure to indoor air pollutants.”
Approximately 30 percent of Denver homes do not have air conditioning, primarily older homes and most homes in low-income communities. As temperatures rise, more residents will need air conditioning to stay healthy and safe.
“Transitioning to all-electric heat pumps, which provide both heating and cooling, is a smarter, more efficient investment to help residents stay cool in hotter summers and warm in the winter,” said Grace Rink, Executive Director of CASR. “With the increase in air pollution from intense and frequent wildfires, traditional cooling methods, like opening windows or using swamp coolers, are no longer healthy options. This plan details how the City will help people get access to A/C by transitioning furnaces to heat pumps for heating.”
“In 30 percent of low-income homes in Denver today, gas equipment fails carbon monoxide tests, compared to less than 5 percent of market rate homes,” said Aaron Martinez, Facilities and Sustainability Manager at Urban Land Conservancy. “This persistent exposure to indoor air pollution contributes to chronic health conditions, such as asthma.”
Renewable heating and cooling is a high impact way to see immediate climate benefits. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is released when gas is extracted and transported through pipelines into homes and buildings. The impact is 80 times greater than standard carbon dioxide emissions. As the grid moves to 100 percent renewable power, renewable electric heating and cooling will help reduce the emissions generated by homes and buildings.
The Renewable Heating and Cooling Plan was shaped by over a year of extensive stakeholder engagement with more than 300 community members across Denver, along with expert advisory groups and workforce roundtables. The plan includes seven conversion playbooks that highlight options for partial and full electrification for the most common space and water heating typologies found in Denver’s buildings and homes. It also includes 20 recommendations for the city to influence an equitable electrification transition to ensure that all Denver residents benefit from renewable heating and cooling.
“The transition to renewable heating and cooling delivers better outcomes for the same cost,” said Christine Brinker, Senior Associate at Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. “When a furnace, air conditioner, or hot water heater needs replacement, most homes and buildings can install and run a cleaner, more efficient, all-electric equivalent at a similar cost to a new gas system.”
“Renewable heating and cooling will make power more reliable and resilient and make better use of the grid,” said Mike Henchen, Principal at RMI. “Denver’s electric system is already built to withstand high air conditioning load during the summer, and winter heating needs can shift to renewable electricity without major impacts on infrastructure.”
“Cities are on the forefront of the nation’s transition to climate change resilient buildings,” said Kelly Shultz, cities and climate program lead at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “The Renewable Heating and Cooling Plan will help bring the latest climate-friendly technologies—and the public health and emissions reductions benefits that follow—to Denver residents and businesses.”