Crested Butte is the first municipality in Colorado to require that all new homes and commercial construction be powered by electricity—and more cities could soon follow its lead.
The town council unanimously approved adoption of the new code, which does not allow natural gas to be used for heating, water heating or appliances, and it went into effect at the beginning of this year. The change aligns with the town’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2019, which promotes a strategy of “electrifying buildings to reduce direct fossil fuel usage in buildings and connect building energy use to an increasingly renewable energy grid,” according to the town’s website.
Other municipalities in the state are making similar shifts. In January, Denver adopted a new building code that will ban natural gas furnaces and water heaters in new commercial and multifamily construction starting in 2024. Gas appliances, however, will still be allowed, and residences are not included in the change. Basalt has approved a loose plan to ban natural gas service to new buildings and rely solely on renewable energy sources by 2031. And Aspen’s new building codes expedite reviews of all-electric homes as an incentive to leave gas out.
The new rules are not without detractors, who have voiced concerns about the reliability and capacity of the town’s electric grid, especially during the extreme temperature swings of mountain winters. Going electric can also add to building costs and long-term energy costs, they say.
Proponents say those concerns are unfounded and don’t take into account improvements to the electric grid. Supporters also say while going electric might have monetary costs, sticking with gas has a cost to the environment and residents’ health.
Stanford University researchers made waves earlier this year with a report that found natural gas stoves release methane and other dangerous pollutants. According to the study, methane leaking from the gas stoves in U.S. homes has the same climate impact as about 500,000 gasoline-powered cars. Additionally, gas stoves expose users to emissions that can include formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and nitric oxides that can trigger asthma, coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.