Denver plans transition to renewable heating and cooling

Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency released the new plan on Tuesday.

DENVER — As Colorado goes through one of its hottest parts in nearly a decade, the city of Denver is looking at long-term solutions to more efficiently cool and heat homes and businesses.

This week, the Denver Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency (CASR) released its new plan for renewable heating and cooling. Included are the city’s goals to transition homes and other buildings in the city to more climate-friendly systems in the coming decades.

“This is a policy document that sets the stage for how we will ensure that our existing buildings and homes in Denver transition fully to electrical use in our homes over a 20 to 30 year timeline,” said Grace Rink, executive director of CASR and Denver’s Chief climate officer.

“The goal is to ensure that our homes are heated and cooled without increasing the burden of climate change.”

The full, 90+ page plan describes how the city plans to reduce carbon emissions, implementation strategies and ‘playbooks’ and data collected during community engagement.

The timing of its release, during a mid-June heat wave, was purely coincidental. But Rink says it highlights the importance of how homes in Denver are cooled (and heated) today and in the future. Her office reports that 30% of homes in Denver do not have central air.

“When these houses were built, our average summer temperatures were much cooler than they are today. And the average temperatures at night were much cooler,” she said. “Now it’s hotter. And as we know, we’re dealing with an almost year-round fire season that will worsen this summer. So swamp coolers or opening your windows doesn’t work anymore, it’s not viable. It’s too hot. And it doesn’t protect residents from smoke that comes in during wildfires.”

Instead, Rink proposes an alternative to your current heating and cooling systems: electric air/water heat pumps. They use electricity to move heat in or out of your home, depending on whether you want to heat up or cool down.

Now that the formal plan has been released, the next step for Rink’s team is to figure out ‘the how’. They are now working to establish incentive and equity programs to help implement the plan.

“Thanks to Denver voters, 65% of voters approved voting initiative 2A last fall, which allowed our office to work on climate action up to $40 million a year,” explains Rink. “We knew we would use some of that money to help our low-income neighbors first. We will provide incentive programs, grants, awareness programs, installation assistance – whatever we need to do to make sure we get cooling to the homes of people who need it, who can’t afford it, and we serve them first.”

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