Regional News Briefs

May

Colorado House approves legislation to expand natural gas energy efficiency programs

On May 5, 2021, the Colorado House approved HB21-1238. Lead sponsors of the bill are Representative Tracey Bernett (D-Longmont) and Representative Chris Kennedy (D-Lakewood). The bill directs the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to:

  • Establish energy savings targets for gas utility energy efficiency programs based on the maximum cost-effective and achievable level of energy savings;
  • ensure that gas utilities devote at least 25 percent of residential program expenditures to programs or measures targeted to income-qualified households; 
  • include the social cost of carbon and methane emissions in the cost effectiveness analysis of natural gas energy efficiency programs;
  • discount future customer costs and utility bill savings recognized by customers at the long-term rate of inflation rather than at the utility’s cost of capital; and
  • approve natural gas revenue-sales decoupling if this policy is proposed by a regulated gas utility.

HB21-1238 should lead to new and expanded energy efficiency programs implemented by Colorado’s four regulated gas utilities, which in turn will help customers realize greater gas savings and lower utility bills. SWEEP estimates that gas customers will realize net economic benefits of around $600-700 million from energy efficiency programs implemented during 2022-30 if HB21-1238 is enacted. In addition, the bill should cut greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado by about 300,000 tons of CO2-equivalent in 2025 and 800,000 tons in 2030. The bill, which now moves on to the Colorado Senate, is supported by the Colorado Energy Office and a wide range of consumer, business, environmental, clean energy advocacy, and labor organizations.

April

Albuquerque's updated Climate Action Plan

The City of Albuquerque has released its updated Climate Action Plan (CAP). This is the first update to the plan in over a decade. The community-driven plan was developed by 19 members of the community who served on the Climate Action Task Force. The plan focuses on various issue areas including sustainable buildings, renewable energy, transportation, and economic development. The CAP process was equity-focused and resulted in many strategies to ensure that the benefits of our State and local climate goals will reach low-income, frontline communities.

  • Several energy efficiency strategies are included in the CAP:
  • Increased low-income energy efficiency programs and services;
  • Timely updates to the City’s Energy Conservation Code;
  • Benchmarking and disclosure requirements for all buildings;
  • Electrification of city and private buildings;
  • Electrification of city fleet and transit; and
  • Promotion of electric vehicle rideshare options for frontline communities.

Beginning this summer, the Sustainability Office will monitor and support implementation of the CAP. The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project's (SWEEP) New Mexico Representative, Tammy Fiebelkorn, served as a policy advisor to the Climate Action Task Force and will continue to support efforts to implement the strategies identified in the CAP.

For more information: Climate Action Plan — City of Albuquerque (cabq.gov).

In New Mexico, Avangrid proposing merger with PNM

Avangrid is proposing a merger with the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), and the case is currently before the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (NMPRC) for approval. The Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy (CCAE) has signed onto an amended stipulation agreement in the case. This agreement provides substantial benefits to New Mexicans, such as $73 million rate benefits including:

  • $50 million in rate credits over three years;
  • $6 million in COVID arrearages relief;
  • $2 million to bring electricity to low-income, remote customers; and
  • $15 million+ for low-income energy-efficiency assistance over five years

The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is particularly pleased with the increase in low-income energy efficiency services. 15 million in shareholder funds will be dedicated to low-income energy efficiency programs. Additionally, PNM and Avangrid will also commit to propose increased spending on ratepayer funded cost-effective energy efficiency programs for low-income customers up to the statutory limit on energy efficiency spending in its next energy efficiency proposal to the NMPRC.

This amended stipulation has not been heard by the NMPRC, and further negotiations with other intervenors continue. Upon approval of the PNM/Avangrid merger, New Mexicans will begin to realize the its tremendous benefits.

“This agreement provides major economic and environmental benefits to New Mexicans, with Avangrid committing to provide much-needed assistance to low-income customers through improved access to electricity service as well as dramatically increased energy efficiency programs. These low-income provisions, coupled with economic development funding, financial assistance to impacted indigenous communities, and job creation commitments, set a path forward for this merger that we are pleased to support,” said Tammy Fiebelkorn, New Mexico Representative for SWEEP, a CCAE member organization.

Beneficial electrification bill introduced in Colorado legislature

On April 16, Colorado Senator Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) introduced Senate Bill 21-246 (SB21-246), a bill intended to advance beneficial electrification (BE) in buildings and industry. The bill requires Colorado’s investor-owned electric utilities to develop and obtain Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approval for BE program implementation plans. The PUC is directed to approve the utilities’ plans if they reduce pollutant emissions and are cost effective with a social cost of carbon and methane emissions included in the economic analysis. Utilities must include programs targeted to lower income households in their BE plans, and programs targeted to businesses much meet certain labor standards. The bill also directs the PUC to set longer-term targets for utility BE programs.

SWEEP estimates that the bill would result in the installation of more than 300,000 high efficiency heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and other BE measures in Colorado’s homes and businesses by 2030, thereby cutting natural gas and propane use by more than 20 billion cubic feet per year and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over one million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year as of 2030. SWEEP played a leading role in developing SB21-246 and is working with a wide range of partners to secure its passage.

For more information, see our fact sheet.

New Mexico Sustainable Building Tax Credit signed into law

The New Mexico Senate passed House Bill 15 (HB15) last month and this week Governor Grisham signed it into law. HB15 replaces the Sustainable Buildings Tax Credit (SBTC) from 2015. That 2015 tax credit has been instrumental in transforming the market for new buildings in New Mexico. Now, because the New Mexico Energy Conservation Code was recently updated, a new 2021 SBTC needed to be adopted to keep New Mexico public policy up-to-date and to encourage and reward new buildings that substantially increase energy efficiency and sustainability above and beyond the legal requirements of the code. Representative Kristina Ortez (D-42) championed this important bill that will reduce energy use in buildings, lower energy bills for building and homeowners, and help New Mexico reach its climate goals. Buildings are a leading source of carbon emissions and reducing the energy use in them helps fight climate change, reduces negative community health impacts, and reduces operating expenses for homes and businesses.

Providing tax credits for installation of efficient products in existing homes and small commercial buildings will help average New Mexicans lower their monthly energy burden by lowering their utility bills, help fight climate change by reducing the emissions from operating the building or home, and improve community health through reduced health impacts from emissions. (Low-income provisions included: double credits, that are refundable, for low-income New Mexicans or affordable housing.)

HB15 was supported by building industry professionals, public health advocates, low-income advocates, and environmental groups including: New Mexico Manufactured Housing Association, United States Green Building Council, Center for Civic Policy, City of Las Cruces, Coalition of Sustainable Communities New Mexico, New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light, New Mexico Environmental Public Health Network, New Mexico Voices for Children, Policy Solutions Institute, Prosperity Works, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), Sierra Club, 350 New Mexico, NRDC, and Western Resource Advocates.

Read the original press release here. View the HB15 fact sheet here.

Las Cruces City Council passes energy transition commitments, including all electric vehicles

Las Cruces, New Mexico's City Council passed groundbreaking electric vehicle (EV) and natural gas transition resolutions. The EV resolution adopts an EV First purchasing policy, encourages joining programs like GoEV, and was amended by the Council to call for a minimum goal of 50% zero-emission vehicles (instead of the 22% originally proposed) in the city fleet by 2030. The utility gas resolution commits the city-owned gas utility to planning for an energy transition and willingness to become active participants in the great energy transition. This is a big step forward for the city, and New Mexico. From Las Cruces Sun News: "The [EV] resolution also calls on other city departments to develop cleaner transportation infrastructure such as bike sharing and electric buses. The city says transportation contributes 53% of all the greenhouse gas emissions in Las Cruces. City vehicles make up 2% alone, and city purchases of asphalt and cement almost contribute the same amount of emissions as city-owned vehicles."

February

Denver Stakes Out its Strategy for Clean, Healthy, and Net Zero New Homes and Buildings

Denver took a big leap forward with the release of its 168-page Net Zero Energy New Buildings and Homes Implementation Plan, laying out a strategy for all new construction to be net zero by 2030. It outlines a path through the next four building code cycles (2021, 2024, 2027, and 2030) to make all newly constructed homes and buildings highly efficient, all electric, powered by renewable energy, and grid flexible.

SWEEP’s buildings efficiency experts served on committees to help the city shape, develop, and revise the plan, and anticipate the plan can serve as both a model and inspiration for other cities and states.

One part of the plan gaining attention is the transition towards all-electric new homes and buildings, something climate experts say is not only necessary but already underway. Denver’s plan uses a stepped approach, requiring new homes to be electric-ready in 2021, and then all-electric and net zero by 2024. Commercial construction targets vary by sector but are a combination of electric-ready and partially electric in 2021, moving to all-electric and net zero by 2027. Each element of the plan will still be vetted by specialized code committees in each building code cycle and approved by city council. 

Homes and buildings are Denver’s largest source of climate pollution, and 40 percent of Denver’s 2050 building stock is yet to be built, justifying the spotlight on building codes. Cost savings and equity concerns also overlay the entire plan. Although this plan only affects new construction, a parallel effort to bring existing homes and buildings towards net zero will use different tools and policies, such as benchmarking and labeling, building energy performance standards, workforce training, and various retrofit incentives.

January

Colorado Releases its new Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap

Colorado released its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Pollution Reduction Roadmap on January 14, 2021. The Roadmap represents the most action-oriented, ambitious, and substantive planning process that Colorado has ever undertaken on climate leadership, pollution reduction, and a clean energy transition. It lays out an achievable pathway to meet the state’s science-based climate targets of 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030%, and 90% by 2050 from 2005 levels that were part of House Bill 19-1261 Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution. An executive summary of the Roadmap (also included in the full report) is available here.

“Colorado should act on this GHG Pollution Reduction Roadmap right away,” said Howard Geller, Executive Director of SWEEP. “Many of the steps it identifies will protect our climate, improve our health, and save us money – in particular through policies that will advance energy efficiency in buildings and put more electric vehicles on the road. There’s a lot of work to do and no time to waste.”