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To achieve climate goals, Gunnison County must wring building emissions, commissioners told


It’s one of those good news, bad news stories out of Colorado’s Gunnison County.

First, the good news: Greenhouse gas emissions in the county have decreased 6% since 2015, and they’re likely to go down another 30% by 2030.

This is not necessarily anything that locals have done. Rather it is a result of the greening of the electricity supplied by the local electrical cooperative to about two-thirds of residents, including Crested Butte. That electricity in turn comes from wholesale provider Tri-State Generation and Transmission, which has begun replacing coal-fired generation with that from renewables.

The bad news, as reported by the Crested Butte News, is that to make a more serious dent in emissions as the county wants to do, it will have to make serious inroads on its buildings. County officials say that their buildings have a higher average rate of emissions per square foot than other communities in the same climate zone.

John Cattles, the assistant county manager for sustainability and operations, said 20% reduction from buildings will be needed to reach par with comparable communities. “Our building sector is not very efficient,” he said, attributing that inefficiency to rental housing built long ago. “Many people pay almost as much in energy as they do in rent in the winter,” he said.

County Commissioner Liz Smith talked about Summit County’s practice of making pre-approved architectural plans available to help minimize costs to locals who are building, allowing built-in energy efficiencies.

Like other jurisdictions, Gunnison County is weighing just how far it wants to go with updating its building code to the 2021 level required by state law effective in July.

Cattles said a ban on natural gas, as Crested Butte has required for new construction, is not viable for Gunnison County.

This story was corrected to include “not” in the sentence most immediately preceding this one to reflect what was originally reported.

Top photo: Gunnison, the town, and Gunnison County from the air in December 201.

Allen Best
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