Guest commentary: It takes an electric village to restore the climate

Mona Newton
Guest commentary

We burn too much of the Colorado natural gas that’s heated and powered our homes and businesses and we continue to drink the black gold, the Texas tea, the crude oil that powers transportation for too long. Our relationship with fossil fuels has done us a great service and brought humanity into the industrial age, but we are long overdue for this tough breakup. As a friend and mentor, Randy Udall used to say, “Now, it’s time to say goodbye.”

Too much of a good thing ushered in the era of climate change. Its effects can be felt all around us as we experience more wildfires, long-term drought in the Southwest, extreme temperatures in the arctic, flooding in the Midwest and rising seas on the East Coast.

Local and state policymakers know this can’t continue. They have put a stake in the ground declaring a commitment to reduce carbon emissions and prevent our planet from warming an additional 1.5 degrees. Changes need to be made fast in our buildings and transportation systems to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and 90% by 2050. The path is not easy, but we can do this together.

The Roaring Fork Valley is heading in the right direction. Municipalities have put aggressive climate action plans in place. Aspen Electric reached 100% renewable energy in 2015. Holy Cross Energy is providing 40% clean energy and has pledged to get to 100% by 2030. But still we need more. We can stand on these platforms to reach ambitious climate goals, but participation is required, and this is your invite.

Buildings still account for more than half of the carbon emissions in the Roaring Fork Valley and that illuminates a crystal-clear opportunity to do better. It’s time for each of us to commit to clean energy technologies as we prepare for a 100% renewable energy future. On Tuesday, the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) shared with the Pitkin County Commissioners how the county’s 2050 carbon goal can be achieved. How do we get there? Electrify everything.

Electrification is simply switching fuel sources from dirty fossil fuels to clean electricity. Many still believe the technology to get us to net-zero emissions is down the road, yet we already have electric heat pumps, water heaters and induction stoves for homes and businesses and electric cars and buses for commutes. Where fossil fuels were once the only option, we have technology to make them obsolete without compromising comfort or having a negative impact on budgets. Naysayers claim this path will harm our economy, which is false. It will, however, transform the way we power the economy, creating new job opportunities along the way.

We all play an important role in making this transition happen quickly. Homeowners, HOA members, business owners and tenants can insist on electrification. Architects, builders and contractors on the front lines can educate about the benefits of electric buildings. Every one of us has the ability to advocate for renewable energy and reap its rewards.

The climate needs to play an important role in all of our decisions, especially when it comes to where we live and work. When buying a new home or building, inquire about its efficiency. When breaking ground on new construction, plan for net-zero carbon emissions from the time blueprints are drawn. As local net-zero homebuilder Ben Koons said, “building a home can be difficult and expensive but building a net-zero home isn’t any more difficult or expensive.”

Will you need a new heating or cooling system sometime soon? Replace it with an electric heat pump now. Do you need a new car in the near future? Buy an electric vehicle now. Are you planning to build or renovate a home or commercial space? Electrify it now. Don’t wait for 2030; 100% renewable energy is rising quickly on the horizon.

Obstacles like cost and limits in technology that prevented us from reaching net-zero carbon emissions are rapidly disappearing, but our perception lags behind. CORE makes electrification easy by providing the expertise and resources to make a carbon-free life possible.

We live in an exciting time where we can choose to be a part of the team that turns the tide on climate change and electrification is how we get it done. Let’s do this!

Mona Newton is the executive director at the Aspen-based Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE).