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Looking for energy rebates? A new Google-built calculator may help Colorado residents

Rewire America aims to put homeowners and contractors in touch with lucrative rebates and credits
Workers install solar panels on the roof of a home. (Associated Press file)

Paul Bousquet’s first attempt at finding all the government and utility incentives to help him afford a clean-heat overhaul in his Boulder home took him two frustrating hours.

Then a kindly official told him of a new online tool that had just gone live, developed by Google fellows and the nonprofit Rewiring America, that put all of Colorado’s available federal, state, local and Xcel incentives into one easy search.

“What took me two hours takes five minutes,” Bousquet said of the Rewiring America site. He can get $2,200 in subsidies for each of two cold-climate heat pumps and another $1,500 Boulder incentive, as well as long-term, low-cost financing for a major home renovation that includes solar panels.

“This tool is like AI for incentives,” Bousquet said, describing the new site at a launch by Gov. Jared Polis, and state energy and nonprofit leaders, held at a distributor of Mitsubishi clean-energy heat pumps near Denver International Airport.

Polis and others said the tool will be one key to linking consumers and contractors with lucrative appliance rebates and tax incentives for giving up natural gas-powered machinery in favor of electric versions that can be powered by renewable energy.

“This will be a major selling tool for contractors,” Polis said after watching Google research fellows demonstrate the calculator for some home projects at hypothetical Colorado locations. Colorado is the second state site to be launched by Google and Rewiring America, with another 11 states coming online soon.

“It was a hard state to do, because there are so many incentives,” Rewiring America CEO Ari Matusiak said.

The Colorado site also collects information on electric vehicle incentives, and Polis noted that by stacking up all the federal and Colorado credits and rebates, some Coloradans could save as much as $21,000 on a single qualifying electric vehicle. After Polis asked during the demonstration, Google’s coding team said Colorado’s extensive state and local e-bike incentives would also be added to the site, as well as incentives for replacing gas-powered lawn equipment with electric.

The site is bilingual for Spanish.

During the demo, researchers plugged in an example of a family of five in Parker making less than the average median income for the area. Using the ZIP code and income levels, the site calculated there are incentives up to $20,000 for electrification options such as new solar panels and wiring, fast chargers, heat pumps, on-demand hot water heaters and more.

Polis and other state officials have lately been advertising the newest state incentive, a $450 tax credit for e-bike purchases that can be claimed at tax time without trying to win local incentive lotteries like Denver’s that have been overwhelmed with demand.

Google.org’s fellows spent six months on the pro bono effort to build the Colorado calculator, said Bhavna Chhabra, senior director of software engineering. Generative artificial intelligence was used to help speed up gathering incentive and other information, she said.

Educating homeowners and contractors is a key to success for the electrification efforts, which are backed by billions of dollars in spending from federal infrastructure, stimulus and clean energy laws promoted by the Biden administration. Many homeowners say they’ve had to search for contractors who are familiar with all the incentives and can explain how they are claimed.

“There’s pent-up demand,” Matusiak agreed. More than 800,000 homeowners have already used the Rewiring America sites, without general advertising, he said. Promoters are counting on state and local governments, contractors, nonprofits and others to get the word out about the calculator.

“It’s a public service,” he said. “Fast forward to tax time next year, and it will all be very different.”

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.