Colorado legislature scores notable wins on energy efficiency, climate, and transit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Josh Valentine, SWEEP | email@example.com
[DENVER, CO] – The Colorado legislature wrapped up its 2022 session at midnight on Wednesday, May 11, sending 11 important energy efficiency bills to Governor Polis for his signature.
“Colorado took significant steps forward on efficiency, climate, and transit this legislative session,” said Elise Jones, Executive Director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP). “These actions will help Coloradans save money on home heating, hot water, housing, and transportation, while helping to clean up our air and protect our future.”
SWEEP played an important role in developing or advancing many of these policies. We are grateful for the hard work of the bill sponsors, legislative leadership, Governor Polis’ office, the Colorado Energy Office, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the many Allies who helped make these wins possible.
For advancing energy efficiency, the most significant accomplishments of this legislative session include:
HB22-1362 (Energy-Efficient Building Codes) This landmark bill increases the statewide minimum performance requirements for building energy codes, requiring cities and counties to increase efficiency and cut pollution from homes and commercial buildings when updating their local codes. Additionally, the bill requires local governments to introduce electric- and solar-ready code language beginning in 2023, followed by low-energy and low-carbon code language beginning in 2026. Finally, the bill invests more than $20 million in energy efficiency and building decarbonization projects. SWEEP thanks Representatives Tracey Bernett and Alex Valdez along with Senators Chris Hansen and Faith Winter for leading this effort. See our press release on the passage of this bill for more information.
SB22-206 (Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Resources) Crafted in the wake of the devastating Marshall Fire, this bill provides $20 million to the Colorado Energy Office to distribute as loans and grants to help Coloradans rebuild efficient, resilient, and high-performance homes after wildfires and other climate disasters; and $15 million to the Department of Local Affairs to help fund resilient recovery efforts after disaster emergencies. SB22-206 also establishes an Office of Climate Preparedness to coordinate the state’s post-disaster recovery efforts and develop a statewide climate preparedness plan. Thank you to Senator Steve Fenberg, Representative Judy Amabile, and the Governor’s Office for their leadership on this bill.
SB22-051 (Heat Pumps and Building Materials) This bill creates a 10% tax credit and a state sales tax exemption for the purchase of heat pump systems, which are used for keeping homes at a comfortable temperature and for heating water. SWEEP research shows that the annual heating costs for an all-electric home outfitted with heat pump technology is about 10% less than for a home using gas furnaces and gas water heaters (85% of Colorado homes), with 50-60% less climate-changing carbon pollution under current electricity sources, though incentives are needed to accelerate the transition. The 10% tax credit and state sales tax exemption also extends to electrical panel upgrades and energy storage systems. Finally, the bill includes a state sales tax exemption for low global-warming-potential building materials. SWEEP continues to advocate for an extension to the tax credits and tax exemptions, and other rebates, that these systems and materials provide. Thank you to Senator Chris Hansen and Representative Emily Sirota for sponsoring this important bill.
HB22-1304 (Strong Communities and Affordable Housing) This bill invests $40 million in a new “Strong Communities Grant Program,” alongside $178 million for affordable housing. Strong Communities will encourage local governments to adopt more efficient land use policies that support compact, infill development and increase the supply of affordable housing in walkable, transit-friendly communities. Sustainable land use is a key strategy for improving the efficiency of our transportation system and reducing per-capita levels of driving as well as overall transportation fuel consumption. HB22-1304 will help local governments meet the requirements of the groundbreaking planning rule adopted by the Colorado Transportation Commission last year to reduce climate-changing pollution. Thank you to Senators Julie Gonzales and James Coleman and Representatives Dylan Roberts and Mary Bradfield for sponsoring this critical bill.
SB22-193 (Air Quality) This bill invests $65 million in helping school districts across the state replace diesel buses with clean, efficient electric school buses; $12 million in highly-efficient electric bike rebates and bikeshare programs; $25 million in incentives for industry to adopt efficiency measures or clean technologies that go beyond regulatory requirements; and $750k to fund transit passes for state employees. Thank you to Senators Stephen Fenberg and Julie Gonzales and Representatives Alex Valdez and Meg Froelich for sponsoring this important bill.
SB22-180 (Fare-Free Transit, Bustang Expansion and Main Streets) This bill invests $28 million in Colorado transit agencies for the purpose of funding at least one full month of fare-free service in each of the next two years. SWEEP hopes that this investment will help rebuild ridership numbers that fell as a result of the pandemic, and help build momentum toward a future of more frequent and improved service — which can help improve transportation efficiency, reduce congestion, and save energy and money. Further, the bill expands access to commercial drivers license testing to help address a shortage of bus drivers; invests $30 million in expanding regional Bustang service; and allocates an additional $10 million to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Revitalizing Main Streets Program. Thank you to Senators Faith Winter and Nick Hinrichsen and Representatives Matt Gray and Jennifer Bacon for leading this effort.
HB22-1218 (EV-ready Building Codes) This bill requires builders to future-proof new and renovated commercial and multifamily buildings for electric vehicle (EV) charging. For parking spaces in these buildings, adding such infrastructure during the initial construction phase is up to six times less expensive than adding charging later as a stand-alone retrofit. Colorado anticipates nearly one million EVs on its roads by 2030, requiring over half a million EV charging stations at homes, businesses, shopping centers, and highway corridors, so it makes sense to future-proof new buildings with the panel capacity and wiring to accommodate EV charging. While the codes in this bill are among the strongest in the country, building codes in Colorado are set and enforced at the local level. We urge local governments to look to this bill for guidance when updating building energy codes for EVs pursuant to HB22-1362. Thank you to Representative Alex Valdez and Senators Faith Winter and Kevin Priola for leading this effort.
HB22-1026 (Transportation Options Tax Credit) This bill will help employers support employees that commute to work using an energy-efficient mode such as transit, a bicycle, or a vanpool. The credit is available for two years and covers 50% of the cost of providing clean transportation options. To receive the tax credit, employers must offer clean transportation options to all employees, including part-time and contract workers, which will ensure the benefits are available to all workers including those who don’t have the option to work from home. Thank you to Representatives Shannon Bird and Dan Woog and Senators Chris Hansen and Larry Liston for sponsoring this bill and working with stakeholders throughout the session.
SB22-118 and HB22-1381 (Geothermal Energy) These two bills will help building owners and communities deploy energy-efficient geothermal heat pump systems to heat and cool buildings and/or provide hot water. Thank you to sponsors, Senators Rob Woodward, Nick Hinrichsen, and Faith Winter, and Representatives Rich Holtorf, Donald Valdez, Brianna Titone, and Hugh McKean.
HB22-1151 (Turf Replacement) This bill will reduce water use for lawn irrigation and conserve electricity that otherwise would have been used for pumping. Thank you to Representatives Marc Catlin and Dylan Roberts and Senators Cleave Simpson and Jeff Bridges for running this bill.
Two notable bills that would have improved energy efficiency failed to pass. First, SB22-138, an omnibus climate package, died due to a last-minute filibuster in the House. Among many features of the bill, it would have refined Colorado’s official targets for reducing climate-changing pollution, adding requirements for 2035 and 2040 emissions reductions; and it would have created a financial incentive for individuals and businesses to replace inefficient gasoline-powered small engines with highly-efficient electric options. Lastly, HB22-1138 would have created an income tax credit for employers that create clean commuting plans and offer certain commuting benefits to employees, and provided additional funding to Transportation Management Organizations to assist employers with compliance. This bill failed to pass House Finance in February.
SWEEP hopes these bills will all be signed into law by Governor Polis. We look forward to working with the Governor, state agency leaders and staff, local governments, businesses, and communities across the state to successfully implement these new policies and realize their many benefits in the coming years.
The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is a public interest organization promoting greater energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. swenergy.org