[ By Katherine Nettles ]
Gunnison County Commissioners and their staff entered the new year with a review of the county’s climate actions and goals, as they did last year. Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) have decreased by 6% across the county since 2015 and could decrease by at least another 30% over the next decade due to cleaner and more efficient energy grids. But Gunnison County has more work to do because it averages more emissions per square foot of built environment than other communities in the same climate zone. As the commissioner prepares to update the building code for the first time since 2017, it will consider further measures this year, including new regulations.
During a working session on 17 January, the Commissioners received a presentation from John Cattles, County Assistant Manager for Sustainability and Operations, on current climate-related trends in the region and on how to estimate 2015 GHG levels through 2030. to 50%.
Cattles noted a 6% decrease in emissions across the county from 2015 to 2020. This is mainly related to the increase in renewable power generation. Gunnison County said that in 2015 he emitted 273,165 tons of carbon dioxide and in 2020 he emitted 256,697 tons of carbon dioxide.
“As a percentage of total emissions, we see natural gas as a larger percentage of emissions,” says Cattles, because electricity is getting cleaner. “And natural gas will continue to make up the majority of GHGs because it can’t really do that.”
Two years ago, the county rejoined ICLEI, an international group of governments that provides frameworks and tools to advance climate action and streamline emissions inventory processes. Cattles said ICLEI’s guidance and advice is a good reflection of the county’s climate action plan. “It’s important to understand that we’re on the right track,” he said.
Cattles also said that by 2030, emissions would be about It says it will drop by 37%. “It’s important,” he admitted. “But if we want to reach 50%, this is what the International Panel on Climate Change says we must do…and we need to do more.”
This includes an increase in the proportion of electric vehicles on the road and a 5% decrease in overall vehicle use.
Gradual steps to reduction
Cows and other county officials considered many ways to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, focusing on six major sectors identified for reduction: residential buildings, commercial buildings, and fossil-fueled vehicles. reduced use, increased use of electric vehicles, electrical installations, landfill waste) were identified. They primarily focused on the housing, transportation and utilities sectors.
“Buildings are our largest source of emissions,” says Cattles, which accounts for 61% of all GHGs in the county, with residential properties accounting for 57% and commercial buildings accounting for 43%.
“This is a very important and indeed an area where we have regulatory authority,” he pointed out. Compared to other communities in the same climate zone, Gunnison County needs a 20% reduction in emissions in this sector to meet the average. “We are well above average in his BTU per square foot,” said Cattles. “Our building department is not very efficient.”
Commissioners and staff discussed what they would like to see in the future as a board, as the county is set to adopt the 2021 International Building Code this year, according to the county’s six-year cycle of code updates. The Building Code was adopted in 2017.
Cattles confirmed that the county was the first to choose to set an example by dealing with government-owned buildings.
Measures to be taken in the commercial and residential sectors include improvements to building envelopes, mechanical/electrical systems, and increased production or use of renewable energy.
Cattles said he doesn’t think a natural gas ban will work for communities, but for smaller units it makes financial sense to electrify anyway, and all local governments Mandated by the state of Colorado to adopt the 2021 Energy Code. years to come.
Kathy Pagano, assistant country manager for community and economic development, said her department is also considering adopting the latest international building codes every three years.
Commissioner Laura Puckett Daniels asked about the costs of complying with the updated Buildings and Energy Act, and staff agreed to provide some numbers. “The savings greatly outweigh these costs,” Cattles said.
Commissioner Liz Smith said the savings opportunities don’t always work for homeowners. County manager Matthew Barney said those savings often take years to materialize, and Americans often sell their homes after a few years, making more costly improvements less attractive. But homeowners live longer in Gunnison Valley, he noted.
“Most of our rental inventory was built a long time ago and is not efficient,” Barney says. “And many people pay about the same amount in utilities during the winter as they do in rent.”
Cattles says these low-efficiency home improvements are headed in the right direction. “The GV Heat program makes a difference to dozens of homes each year, increasing efficiency by a lot, sometimes he’s 30%,” he said. This program applies to renters as well as owners.
The discussion turned to brainstorming possible add-ons for future code updates. There may also be restrictions on high-emission equipment and the requirement that, at certain levels, such homes must generate some of their own energy.
“Even with these codes, more expensive homes often have amenities that consume more energy,” Pagano said. Examples include driveway and sidewalk heating, additional refrigerators, and other appliances.
Cattle has largely abandoned the practice of previous second-home owners to turn off cabin heating when no one is visiting, allowing owners to keep things moving while they are unoccupied. He suggested that limiting the use of heated sidewalks and driveways could be a starting point.
Houck added that it could also consider constructing buildings in remote locations within the county. “There’s a difference between giving a building a mile’s worth of power, and providing solar power or geothermal heat.”
Other ideas required testing the blower door. A post-commissioning inspection where the contractor comes after the building is completed to assess how well things are working. Create energy consumption quotas and charge over those quotas.
Cattles suggested taking the median size of homes in the county and creating a pricing structure that exceeds that median size or energy consumption.
Smith is leery of allowing high-end homeowners to simply buy their way out of emissions reductions.
“It will be a mechanism very similar to what is being done in Pitkin County. Pitkin County reports that the net gains are being offset beyond what is acceptable. Frankly, they produce very good reports and have an investigative culture,” said Cattles.
Smith also spoke about Summit County’s practice of making pre-approved building plans available to residents. This minimizes costs for local residents during construction and allows for built-in energy efficiency.
The discussion ended with some key questions. Pagano asked the commissioner to consider whether there would be any interest in surpassing the 2021 code. This will give you direction on how to approach the planning committee. She also asked us to consider creating an impact program where the fees could go towards her GV Heat.
“I think there are ways you can try to achieve your policy goals and stick the needle here. It costs a lot,” says Cattles.
Pagano said it would also be useful to ask how the regulatory process could be made easier, more predictable and more affordable to reduce costs for average residents and workers. .
Puckett-Daniels agreed to streamline the regulation, saying it would be “not disproportionately punitive to those building smaller, more affordable housing…for those people who are still in our valleys.” There are some.” She also wanted to be able to communicate costs and benefits to the public. “I think we need a very clear model to show people at every cost level,” she said.
On the utility and transport aspects of GHG reductions, discussions focused on short-term plans that were not specific.
Cattles said Tri-State Generation and Transmission Inc., which supplies power to the Gunnison County Electrical Association (GCEA), is a regulated utility that plans and develops plans for how to develop energy resources over the long term. I explained that I needed to be held accountable for the plan. GCEA supplies about two-thirds of all electricity in the county, while the City of Gunnison supplies the remaining one-third within its limits, which is difficult to explain because it is unregulated. he said.
Regarding the goal of reducing vehicular traffic, Pagano and Cattles discussed the impact of creating more workforce closer to work to improve quality of life and reduce emissions.
Birnie commented that even though RTA passenger numbers have reached an all-time high, the highways are becoming more congested. “Buses and highways are full. We need housing,” he said.
Cattles and Pagano said they will provide more information to work with the commissioner toward possible recommendations based on this preliminary conversation.
“What we’ve covered so far just scratches the surface,” concluded Cattles.