Boulder, Colorado has a full-time population of just over 100,000, but serves as a regional employment center for more than 50,000 additional people working in a variety of academic, research, and business sectors. The city’s 40,000 single-family homes were predominantly built using gas for heating and hot water. Boulder’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 (80x50) compelled the City to begin exploring options to foster a transition off all fossil fuel-powered appliances.
Boulder has developed a sophisticated system capable of producing an hourly energy model for every single-family detached residence in the city. This system can be used to create a customized “Roadmap to Renewable Living,” a comprehensive household energy assessment and transition plan. This gives participating households options for full home electrification, which includes energy efficiency, electric vehicle acquisition, on-site solar, and electrification of heating. In April of 2018, the city launched its Comfort365 Renewable Heating and Cooling campaign in collaboration with Mitsubishi Electric, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of high efficiency heat pumps. Targeting early stage opportunities, the campaign focuses on providing cooling to the significant number of Boulder’s households that do not have air conditioning, which is a particular need given the city’s increasingly hot summer temperatures due to climate change. Once installed, these systems can also be used to provide high-efficiency electric heating to displace natural gas furnace use in the winter. An upcoming fall campaign will focus on heating system applications for heat pumps that emphasize comfort, safety, and environmental benefits. Boulder set an ambitious goal of doubling the number of heat pump installations in the first year of its campaign. As of the fall of 2018, Boulder has already seen a 4-fold increase in heat pump installations compared to the previous year.