New Bills and Programs Encourage Resilient Rebuilding After Marshall Fire
By Susan Nedell
Several hundred Coloradans are beginning the process of rebuilding the homes they lost in the Marshall fire last December. I am one of them.
None of us imagined that just before the New Year we would lose everything in an unprecedented forest fire. It is heartbreaking, exhausting and sometimes overwhelming.
I am also deeply troubled that the industry is supporting an effort that publicly encourages Coloradans to continue pumping methane into our homes, through Coloradans for Energy Access, a coalition that advocates for access to stoves. gas and water heaters.
The industry peddles misinformation about the costs of rebuilding in a healthier and more climate-friendly way, adding to the frustration and confusion for all of us who want to rebuild our homes in a way that is both better for the climate and for our wallets.
The Marshall Fire was fueled by extreme weather – we have a climate crisis caused in large part by the oil and gas industry and its relentless pressure to keep us hooked on fossil fuels. Enough is enough.
City councils in Louisville and Superior have moved to allow Marshall Fire victims to rebuild under 2018 building codes that are less climate-friendly.
To do my part in addressing the climate crisis, I choose to rebuild to 2021 codes and will not use methane gas to heat my home or cook my family’s meals. Instead, I will install a modern electric heat pump water heater and combined space heating and cooling equipment that is three to five times more efficient than the fossil fuel alternative.
I will also be installing an induction cooker which will keep our indoor air quality more breathable. With these advanced technologies in place, I look forward to living in a safer, healthier and more efficient home…and my electricity bills will be significantly reduced.
Another crucial benefit: the sooner we can shut off the gas, the less we will be dependent on volatile global energy markets and wildly fluctuating energy prices, which we are experiencing right now. I wish this freedom to all my neighbours.
With all the rebates, incentives and grants available to Marshall Fire victims, I am confident that I can rebuild to the latest codes and with the newest appliances and electrical equipment without any increase in additional expense.
A Colorado Energy Office analysis found that building a new all-electric home costs about $2,000 to $3,000 less and saves the homeowner on their monthly energy bills.
I strongly encourage others to build an all-electric home following the 2021 building codes – or at the very least explore the variety of options, rebates, and incentives available to build a more efficient and resilient home. Here are a few: Xcel Energy offers a number of rebates, from $7,500 for homeowners who choose to build to 2021 code, to $37,500 to meet Passive House standards, with three tiers in between .
There are numerous equipment discounts, support for solar power, and a new donor-advised fund called the Marshall Fire Resilient Rebuild Assistance Fund. These discounts, programs and more are available on Boulder County’s new Rebuilding Better website. (RebuildingBetter.org).
The website hosts resources for builders and homeowners. Boulder County has also staffed to provide individual advisory services where a homeowner can speak to an expert to help navigate the many options available.
Another source of funds for resilient reconstruction is a new bill that Senate Speaker Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, introduced in the state Legislature — SB22-206, Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Resources. If this bill becomes law, it will create a sustainable reconstruction program in the form of loans and grants for victims of wildfires or other natural disasters.
HB22-1362, Building Greenhouse Gas Emissions, is another bill that will ensure new buildings across the state are built to more energy efficient and resilient standards. We need these two bills to become law to help people now and in the future and to ensure climate-friendly progress for Colorado’s built environment.
We now have the resources not only to imagine, but to actually build a better future. I encourage those rebuilding after the Marshall fire to seriously consider resilient rebuilding – and I look forward to seeing other communities do the same.
Susan Nedell of Louisville lost her home in the Marshall Fire.