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Carbondale’s 20/20 vision coming into focus

By Sue Gray

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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Carbondale has made positive strides toward its goal of a more
resilient and energy secure economy, but there is still a long way to go.
That’s according to information presented at a workshop titled “Clean Energy
Progress in Carbondale,” held at the Carbondale Library on March 19. The
workshop was hosted by members of the Clean Energy 2020 campaign, a coalition
of energy non-profits, the town of Carbondale, and the Carbondale Environmental
Board. It was the first of three public meetings designed to inform the
community of the town’s energy goals and seek input on how to meet those goals.

To avoid the catastrophic effects of planetary warming, the
international climate change community recommends that greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions be reduced to 70 percent below 2006 levels by the year 2030.
Recognizing that the federal government wasn’t moving fast enough to meet that
target, cities and towns across America developed their own plans to reduce
energy use and switch to renewable sources. To date, 1,000 U.S. municipalities
have climbed on board the GHG reduction train.

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Colorado contains several examples of voluntary emission
reduction programs. The city of Boulder developed a “Climate Action Plan,”
Breckenridge formed “SustainableBreck,” and Fort Collins is working to
transform its downtown and the main campus of Colorado State University into a
net-Zero Energy District called “Fort ZED.”

In 2010 Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle
and Parachute resolved to increase energy efficiency by 20 percent, reduce
petroleum consumption by 25 percent, and obtain 35 percent of energy from
renewable sources by the year 2020. To facilitate this process, the towns
joined with RFTA, Colorado Mountain College, the Garfield County Library
District and Garfield County to form the Garfield Clean Energy Collaborative in
early 2012. The move was a finalization of the Garfield New Energy Communities
Initiative that began in 2009 with a state grant.

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The town of Carbondale “Energy and Climate Protection Plan”
outlines the actions necessary to meet its 2020 goals. The plan was developed
and is being implemented with the help of local non-profits Clean Energy
Economy for the Region (CLEER) and the Community Office for Resource Efficiency
(CORE), in partnership with Garfield Clean Energy.

 

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Where we are now

Commenting at the public workshop, town trustee Frosty Merriott
estimated the town of Carbondale spends between $150,000 to $200,000 annually
toward achieving the 2020 energy goals. The town has invested in the
installation of energy use monitoring systems and solar panels on government
buildings and schools, and improved energy performance on many municipal
buildings. With these efforts, town government has managed to achieve a 27
percent reduction in energy use since 2009.

However, the Clean Energy 2020 goals apply to the entire
community, not just government entities, so Carbondale’s citizens must
contribute in order to reach the target. For its part, the town of Carbondale
developed building codes requiring energy efficient construction practices for
new commercial buildings, and is working on a similar code for new residential
construction.

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Home and business owners are encouraged to participate in
increasing energy efficiency and converting to renewable sources with incentive
programs like free energy audits, and low interest loans, grants and rebates
offered by CLEER, CORE, Garfield Clean Energy and the town of Carbondale. In
the last two years, recipients of CORE grants have spent $1.2 million on energy
upgrades in Carbondale.

Data collected from 2010 to 2013 shows that 346 Carbondale
households took energy saving actions such as installing home insulation,
purchasing efficient appliances, heating equipment, and lighting, or going
solar. On average, these households have seen energy savings amounting to 14
percent.

Also in the last two years, 40 commercial properties made
energy saving upgrades and 54 additional businesses are engaged in the process
of upgrading. Pour House restaurant proprietor Skip Bell had an energy
efficient refrigeration system installed. Dale Eubanks, the owner of the
building where Miser’s Mercantile is located, had all of the T12
magnetic-ballast fluorescent lights switched to more efficient T8 electric
lamps. Miser’s owner Paula “Sam” Hunter said she experienced a $700 reduction
in her utility bills in the first eight months. Between 2010 and 2013, the
average energy savings achieved by participating businesses was 13 percent.

Energy upgrades and conversions ultimately save businesses and
homeowners money. According to statistics provided by CLEER/CORE, it also
benefits the local economy by employing installers and contractors. Nearly $1.5
million have been spent for home and business energy upgrades in Carbondale
since 2010.

More to do

Despite all of these efforts, Carbondale has only reached 23
percent of its 2020 goal. With just over five years left, stronger action needs
to be taken. The town is looking at how to finance further measures on its part
and provide more incentives to the community to upgrade. Last year, town
trustees asked CLEER and CORE to explore funding options. The Clean Energy 2020
campaign was formed by representatives of the three groups to address that
request.

Last week’s workshop was designed to elicit suggestions from
community members on how to finance the remaining actions necessary to achieve
the goal. Three dozen people filled the library’s meeting room. The crowd
consisted of home and business owners, schoolteachers, town of Carbondale
representatives and candidates, and renewable energy professionals, among
others.

A one-hour slide presentation given by Erica Sparhawk from
CLEER and Lucy Kessler from CORE, explained Carbondale’s energy goals and
progress thus far. The last hour was an open discussion on how to persuade the
town’s citizens to take energy saving measures of their own, and was
facilitated by former Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig.

Participants in the discussion proposed financial options
ranging from implementing a carbon tax and hiking energy costs, to getting
greater participation from energy companies, or creating a new utility model
altogether. Behavioral conditioning was also a hot topic. Suggestions were made
to both punish energy hogs and reward energy conservation. A Colorado Mountain
College instructor expressed the need to inform and enlist the younger
generation, and American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) Director Chip Comins
said he believes we should think outside the box, maybe grow our own crops to
create biofuel.

Two more community workshops are planned, but no dates have
been set. In the meantime, the public is encouraged to share their ideas on the
Clean Energy 2020 website or Facebook page.

 

For more information

Check out CLEER’s Energy Navigator kiosk in the Third Street
Center and online at garfieldenergynavigator.org. The tool provides data on
renewable energy production and energy use at many Garfield County government
buildings and wastewater treatment plants from Carbondale to Parachute.
Included in the tracking system are public schools and CMC, as well as some
businesses such as Alpine Bank and RFTA.

Clean Energy 2020: www.cleanenergy2020.com

CORE: www.aspencore.org

CLEER: www.cleanenergyeconomy.net

Garfield Clean Energy: www.garfieldcleanenergy.org

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