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FILE PHOTO: Aerial picture of Denver's skyline. Gas Leak Detector Portable
FILE PHOTO: Aerial picture of Denver's skyline.
Denver city officials Tuesday defended their phase-out of natural gas heating and cooling systems, and electrification goals, for commercial buildings in response to a Denver Gazette story Monday.
According to the 2021 Energize Denver Renewable Heating and Cooling Plan, 11.76% of Denver’s green house gas emissions come from commercial buildings. Combined, commercial and residential use of gas comprise 24% of the city’s total GHG emissions.
Changes to city building codes were adopted in January by the Denver City Council. The Energize Denver plan calls for eliminating green house gas emissions and making Denver’s electrical grid 80-100% renewable by 2030.
“The headline is really misleading and is causing undue alarm within our community,” said Chelsea Warren, spokesperson for the city’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency (OCASR). “There is no 'ban' on natural gas: natural gas stoves, fireplaces, and grills are still allowed in commercial buildings.”
The headline in Tuesday's Denver Gazette on the story stated: "Denver will ban some natural gas in buildings."
The new building codes apply to commercial heating and cooling equipment and only apply to replacement of equipment that has reached its end of life or has failed.
Code restrictions on heating systems become increasingly stringent in 2025 and 2027, and while there will be exemptions for emergency replacement and economic hardship, they must be reviewed and approved by the office.
Laura Schwartz, spokesperson for Denver Community Planning and Development, said residential single-family homeowners and single-family home landlords don’t have to worry about the new commercial code requirements — which only apply to apartments, residential condominiums, and townhouses.
As of March 1, applicants for replacement equipment not willing to electrify will have to go through a more complicated permitting process to replace faulty units with like-new units, a reversal of the previous permitting process.
“This March 1 code change is meant to encourage commercial building owners to consider electric heating and cooling sources,” said Warren. “The current code today allows natural gas replacement to be a quick permit while replacing with an electric heating and cooling source is an application which incentivizes building owners to choose the quick permit option.”
Critics say electrification is likely to be expensive and will likely require new electrical equipment. Warren argues that studies show that the costs of replacing gas equipment with electric are comparable.
“This policy does not add to their capital costs, only requiring that — if it is cost effective — they partially electrify at the time of equipment replacement,” Warren said.
Denver offers incentives to reduce the cost of the switchover.
“We are offering incentives like the Building Electrification Pilot Program to help encourage building owners to plan and make the switch before the building code requires them to in 2025 or 2027,” said Warren.
Denver has a pilot program funded with $7 million available to do up to 70 electrification projects.
“So far, we have received over 140 applications and have selected our first 20 to move forward in the process,” said Warren. “We use a prioritization matrix to prioritize Equity Priority Buildings and equipment that is closer to end of useful life.”
New building codes in Denver will ban natural gas furnaces and water heaters in new commercial and multifamily construction starting in 2024 i…
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