A package of new climate-related legislation signed this year by Governor Polis is designed to make it more attractive for Colorado households to ditch fossil fuels.
Many of the discounts are designed to be combined with other incentives, but not all the savings will be available right away.
Here’s a guide to what’s coming and when:
Electric Vehicles: Right now, Colorado has 80,000 registered plug-in hybrids and battery EVs, a long way from the state’s goal of 940,000 EVs on the road by 2030. The new incentives are intended to speed up their adoption through a $5,000 tax credit on the purchase of a battery-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle with a suggested purchase price of less than $80,000. For cars priced under $35,000, buyers can get an additional $2,500 credit. Any Colorado resident qualifies, beginning on July 1, 2023. After Jan. 1, 2025, the base rebate decreases until it’s phased out in 2029.
E-bikes: Denver proved the power of e-bike rebates last year. The state is now hoping for similar success. The Colorado Energy Office plans to launch an e-bike rebate program for low- to moderate-income residents this summer but hasn’t detailed the size of the discounts.
The plan for all Coloradans regardless of income is clearer. Under legislation signed into law this year, the state will offer a $450 discount on e-bikes starting on April 1, 2024 and continuing through 2032. The discount will be applied at the point of sale.
Electric lawn equipment: Because gas-powered lawnmowers and other lawn equipment is a major source of ozone pollution, the state will institute a 30 percent discount on electric lawnmowers, leaf blowers, trimmers and snowblowers, applied at time of purchase, starting Jan. 1, 2024 and continuing through December 2026.
Heat pumps: Heat pumps for household space heating and water heating, powered by electricity, are seen as key to reducing pollution from natural gas. Colorado currently has a rebate worth 10 percent of the cost of installing heat pump equipment. It was scheduled to expire at the end of this year, but recent legislation extended it through 2024. The same bill also includes new incentives depending on the technology.
For air-source heat pumps, a resident is eligible for a one-time $1,500 tax credit from 2024 through 2026. After that, it drops to $1,000 until 2029, then to $500 through the end of 2032.
For ground-source heat pumps, residents are eligible for a $3,000 tax credit from 2024 until 2026. After that, it drops to $2,000 until 2029, then again to $1,000 through the end of 2032.
For heat pump water heaters, residents can apply for a $500 tax credit from 2024 until 2026. After that, it drops $250 until 2032.
You can expect vendors of such equipment to be well versed on all these discounts and rebates.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced 6 finalists in its Equitable and Affordable Solutions to Electrification (EAS-E) Prize.
Although administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) here in Jefferson County, none of the finalists were from Colorado. Two were from California, and one each from New York, Oregon, Ohio and Nevada.
Two of the finalists focused on solutions which eliminated the need to upgrade a home’s electrical panel. The New York finalist’s plan focused on allowing the occupant to remain in the home during the conversion process. The Ohio finalist focused on cold-weather conversions.
Regular readers of this column know that home electrification has been “now” for many years here at Golden Real Estate. At the Net Zero Store in our former building at 17695 S. Golden Road, Helio Home Inc. is busier than ever responding to people who want to replace their gas forced air furnaces with heat pump units and their gas water heaters with heat pump water heaters. (You can reach the Helio Home sales team at 720-460-1260.)
The primary focus of the Realtor Magazine article is on the need for home builders to include a larger electrical service as fossil fuels are phased out. Number one, it said, was to accommodate an electric car, since the major car manufacturers are committed to going all-electric or mostly so by 2030.
The article promotes the idea of installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to generate electricity for your home and car. With such a system, the author of the article correctly points out that the electrical grid can function as your home battery (thanks to net metering), but seems not to understand how it really works. He states that the utility will buy your excess solar generation but you might have to buy electricity for your car on a cloudy day. In fact, net metering allows you to send surplus electricity to the grid when you don’t need it, but you get it back at full value when needed. Everyone with a solar PV system should take advantage of the “roll-over” option allowing you to be credited for that surplus production long-term rather than get a check each January for the previous year’s over-production.
When the utility pays you for your surplus production, it does so at its cost of generating electricity — a couple cents per kilowatt-hour. But if you use your surplus electricity, you save the full retail rate (over 10¢ per kilowatt-hour) versus purchasing those kilowatt-hours from the utility.
Not understanding that process, the author promotes the idea of a home battery system, but, as I wrote before, that only needs to be considered if you have medical equipment which must run during a blackout.
The author promotes the installation of a 240V car charging station, suggesting that this could require a larger electrical panel in older homes. I disagree. The Level 2 charging station only draws the same electricity as your electric clothes dryer. If your panel can’t accommodate a dedicated circuit for the car, you could use the same one as the clothes dryer and not use both appliances at the same time. (I recognize that this is not what the code dictates, but it’s still safe if you have a 40-amp breaker on that circuit, because if you do run the dryer and the car charger at the same time, it would trip the breaker.)
Also, every EV comes with a 120V cord to plug your car into a standard household outlet. Although that only gets you 4 miles of range per hour, that’s still over 50 miles of range overnight, which may suffice, especially if you have other charging options during the day. Downtown Golden, for example, has ten free Level 2 charging stations in its garages and elsewhere.
Of course, there’s more to home electrification than car charging. The article points out that there are now electric outdoor tools—lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers, chain saws and more—that you can buy online or at Lowes. Ego Poweris the biggest brand in this field, and their various tools all use the same interchangeable batteries.
Not mentioned in the article are the biggest consumers of fossil fuels—your gas furnace and water heater. As I said, you can speak to Helio Home about converting gas units to electric heat pump units.
For cooking, I have written in the past about induction electric ranges, and I’m really fond of our electric grill shown here. Lift it off its stand and you can use the grill on your countertop. You can’t do that with a gas grill! And it plugs into a standard 120V patio outlet. We bought ours at Home Depot for $100. Food grilled on it tastes just as good as when cooked on a gas grill.
Can the electrical grid handle the increased use of electricity over fossil fuels, given, for example, that by 2030 over 50% of car sales in America will be all-electric? You may have read warnings that widespread adoption of EVs will overwhelm our electrical transmission systems, but I disagree. Solar panels are being installed just as quickly and perhaps more so, and that electricity is consumed within your neighborhood if not by yourself, reducing the needed distribution from the utility. And, as I said, even with Level 2 charging, an EV only draws the same amount of electricity as a clothes dryer.
Home builders can and should adapt to this trend, and are in fact required to do so in some jurisdictions. Every new home should be solar-ready if not solar-powered, by building chases into the home which could accommodate the electrical lines serving roof-mounted solar panels. Also, garages should be wired with a 240V outlet on their front walls in addition to the usual 120V outlets on three walls.
I was encouraged to see that a new 300-unit apartment complex about to break ground in Lakewood between Colfax and 15th Place and between Owens and Pierson Streets is, according to the plans I saw, going to have over 40 EV parking spaces in its garage.
One of the more interesting flaws in the Realtor Magazine article was the suggestion that home garages should be insulated or even heated to avoid shortening the life of an electric vehicle’s battery. This is a misinterpretation of the fact that EVs lose range in the winter. It’s not that the battery loses power in cold weather, but rather that heating the car’s cabin uses battery power which thereby reduces the car’s range, as does the heating of the battery itself to its optimum operating temperature.