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 creates a customized household energy assessment and transition plan for full home electrification, including 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. The spring campaign focused on providing cooling to the significant number of Boulder’s households that do not have air conditioning, while the fall campaign focused on comfort, safety, and environmental benefits. As of the summer of 2019, Boulder has already seen a 3-fold increase in heat pump installations compared to the previous year.
Building on this success, Boulder recognized that certain elements of the campaign would need to be updated to ensure that they reach a broader and more diverse population, and not just high-income residents who could afford the installations. In 2019, BEI began work with Boulder to design new programs to serve these broader constituencies, pulling from concepts of “Targeted Universalism” to inform the approach.