Our Climate Future – Action Roadmap
Beginning with the adoption of a local plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 1999, successive City Councils have expanded, refined and implemented strategies to lower the carbon footprint of our community. By 2017, the objectives and various strategies were distilled into a comprehensive planning document known as Our Climate Future. That document puts forward three primary objectives:
- Reduce 2030 greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2005 baseline levels
- Provide 100% renewable electricity by 2030 with grid and local sources
- Achieve zero waste, or 100% landfill diversion, by 2030
Pressed by local advocates to demonstrate how these 2030 goals will be achieved within the next 8 years, Council tasked its staff with developing a concrete roadmap with interim goals to more clearly articulate what steps are necessary to achieve these lofty ambitions. Importantly, associated costs for the various tactics are non-existent, vague, or disclosed after decisions to proceed have been made. Meanwhile, the anticipated benefits to the community are speculative at best.
At its October 11 work session, the Fort Collins City Council was presented strategies for achieving the goals laid out with the Our Climate Future (OCF) document. While staff prepared various tactics for achieving a 43% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2026 and 70% reduction by 2030, Council insisted staff find ways to hit 50% reduction by 2026 while reiterating 80% remains the ultimate objective.
Within the presentation, staff identified the “pathways” for reaching the desired reduction targets. These pathways include electricity, buildings, industrial manufacturing, transportation, waste, and land use. Electricity and buildings represent the largest components of our emissions portfolio, meaning those two pathways will attract greater attention. And consequently, imposing the greater risk potential for property and business owners.
Platte River Power Authority (PRPA), the utility and transmission provider co-owned by the cities of Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park and Longmont, has adopted its own goal to be 100% carbon-free by 2030. While achieving that objective would move Fort Collins much closer to its own goal, additional measures would be necessary at the local level to fully realize reduction targets. It is also worth noting that PRPA leadership has made clear its intention to pursue demonstrated technologies and techniques that are cost effective and reliable. They are not willing to compromise system reliability and integrity for the sole purpose of eliminating GHG emissions.
Earlier this fall, the PRPA adopted a wholesale rate schedule that would raise electricity costs by 5% annually through 2027 to offset costs associated with renewable energy source conversion. This will translate to higher retail electric rates by residential and commercial customers of Fort Collins Utilities over the foreseeable future. Certain commercial properties will see annual increases of less than 5%, while others will experience adjustments above 5%, dependent upon the type of service required.
Relative to buildings, property owners can expect to see ever more significant changes to building codes to reduce overall energy and water demand while also addressing indoor environmental concerns. But staff and Council also recognize that low-impact development going forward will not reduce existing GHG emissions. Therefore, existing buildings must be made more efficient.
Not to be outdone by requirements spelled out under HB22-1362, as adopted by the State Legislature this spring, City staff will develop specific energy performance standards for commercial and multifamily properties within the city, as well as energy performance disclosures for all residential properties listed for sale. With anticipated adoption of such actions in 2024, staff will pivot to devising a net-zero energy code for all structures that would be adopted in 2025. By 2026, owners of large commercial properties will need to demonstrate compliance with building performance standards, followed in 2027 by owners of small and mid-sized commercial properties.
A new energy code will be in place by 2028, along with a new requirement that landlords demonstrate compliance with the code for all residential rental properties. By 2030, all buildings will need to comply with energy performance standards that have yet to be defined, though we do know that banning the use of natural gas in new and existing homes and businesses is a top priority. We are rightfully concerned by the expansive nature of this endeavor.
Again, no associated cost estimates have been provided for any of these measures, though any such estimates would most certainly fail to consider costs borne by the private sector. As has been the case in the past, staff estimates, when provided, consider costs the City itself recognizes as well as direct expenses paid through utility rates and other fees.
Separately, the Common Sense Institute published its own analysis of impacts to the cost of housing as result of HB22-1362, which can be found here. To the extent there is a correlation to cost impacts on commercial properties, we anticipate many small businesses in our community will be forced to relocate, downsize or cease operations.
While we all seek to lower our environmental impact and improve physical conditions that lead to positive health benefits, business owners recognize that objective cost-benefit analysis is crucial to assuring the long-term sustainability of our economy. Because any successful business employs long-range planning and investment, clear, concise and complete information is crucial in maintaining a healthy, vibrant community.
Unfortunately, history is littered with examples of visionaries that went bankrupt long before their genius was fulfilled.
Source: Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce
November 9, 2022