CORE energy efficiency grants go to rich and poor applicants | AspenTimes.com

CORE energy efficiency grants go to rich and poor applicants

RANDY UDALL GRANT RECIPIENTS

The Community Office for Resource Efficiency awarded 10 grants for a total of $525,000 in the Randy Udall Energy Pioneer Grant program this year. Here’s a summary of the projects.

* Anderson Ranch was awarded $20,000 for a LED lighting retrofit and a 95 percent efficiency boiler.

* Aspen Skiing Co. was awarded $10,000 for a variable speed kitchen hood control system at the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain. The upgrades are estimated to achieve more than a 50 percent reduction in the energy load associated with kitchen ventilation.

* City of Aspen Recreation Department was awarded $75,000 to fund a LED lightning retrofit at Lewis Ice Arena, Aspen Ice Garden and Red Brick Gym.

* Colorado Mountain College was awarded $75,000 for numerous efficiency upgrades at its campuses at Aspen, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. CMC is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050.

* Habitat For Humanity Roaring Fork was awarded $75,000 to fund LED lighting, mechanical and insulation upgrades and a solar photovoltaic system at the flagship ReStore that will be constructed south of Glenwood Springs in 2016.

* The Inn at Aspen was awarded $20,000 for a LED lighting retrofit.

* Rocky Mountain Institute was awarded $25,000 to support inclusion of LED lights and state-of-the-art mechanical system components at its new Innovation Center under construction in Basalt.

* Ross Montessori School was awarded $75,000 for LED lightning and expansion of a already planned solar photovoltaic system at its new school in Carbondale.

* Sustainable Settings was awarded $75,000 to help fund a solar photovoltaic system, a solar hot water system and an anaerobic methane digester in a new “run-on-the-sun” dairy barn it will build.

* Town of Snowmass Village was awarded $75,000 to fund insulation as well as air seal and controls upgrades at 45 affordable housing units at the Creekside complex.

When Aspen's Community Office for Resource Efficiency selected recipients for special grants to promote energy efficiency this year, some local nonprofit organizations that need to stretch every dollar got a vital boost.

Sustainable Settings received $75,000 to help fund high-efficiency equipment for a cutting-edge dairy barn that it plans to build at its ranch and education center south of Carbondale. Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork received $75,000 to help install LED lighting, a solar photovoltaic system and insulation well above building code at the flagship ReStore it will build next year.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Community Office for Resource Efficiency also awarded grants to well-funded local governments and the largest private company in the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

Four of the 10 grants awarded went to Aspen Skiing Co., the city of Aspen, Colorado Mountain College and the town of Snowmass Village. The four grants accounted for $235,000, or 44 percent, of the $525,000 awarded in the Randy Udall Energy Pioneer Grants program.

The Aspen Recreation Department received a $75,000 grant for an LED lighting retrofit at the Lewis Ice Arena, Aspen Ice Garden and Red Brick Gym.

Skico received a $10,000 grant for high-tech kitchen hood controls for the Sundeck.

Projects rigorously reviewed

The program was started in the early 2000s as a way to distribute funds raised in the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program. The city of Aspen and Pitkin County established an energy budget for new homes. Those that exceed that energy use must pay a fee. That revenue is plowed back into energy-efficiency projects in the Roaring Fork Valley. One of the ways to do that is through the Randy Udall grants. The program honors the Community Office for Resource Efficiency's founding executive director and nationally renowned energy sustainability expert Randy Udall, a Carbondale resident who died in 2013.

Public agencies such as the city of Aspen and Pitkin County have been eligible for the grants since the inception of the program, according to Mona Newton, executive director of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency. Nonprofit organizations, schools and private businesses of all sizes are able to apply.

Applications go through a rigorous review process. First they are checked to make sure they are complete and eligible, and then a citizens' committee appointed by the Community Office for Resource Efficiency board of directors ranks them. The Community Office for Resource Efficiency board checks the list and has the ability to make adjustments. The Aspen City Council and Pitkin County commissioners must grant final approval.

Newton said an applicant isn't penalized because it has deep pockets. The city of Aspen might have pursued the LED lighting retrofit without the grant, but the funding helps assure that LED lights get installed rather than fluorescent lights, she said. The city had a $60 million operating budget this year.

Sundeck project receives funds

In the case of Skico, the Sundeck project was supported because it tests new, high-efficiency technology that could be applied on a grander scale, Newton said. Exhaust hoods for ovens are inefficient, especially in winter, because they let warm air out and replace it with cold air. The variable-speed kitchen-hood controls that will be installed at the Sundeck can be adjusted to address smoke and temperature demands rather than running at 100 percent all the time. Skico estimates it could reduce the energy load associated with kitchen operations by 50 percent with the system.

Newton said projects that test new technology and are replicable score well in the grant-assessment process. Skico has pledged to share the findings of its experiment at the Sundeck with the Aspen Restaurant Association, so it could lead to greater savings.

While applicants for the grants aren't penalized for being well-funded, they must demonstrate the ability to raise additional funds for their projects, Newton said. The Community Office for Resource Efficiency requires that applicants produce matching funds of at least 50 percent of the project cost.

Some applicants cannot meet the criteria, Newton said. There were 22 applications for Udall grants this year. Two received different grants administered by the Community Office for Resource Efficiency. Ten didn't receive grants.

Newton said it's possible that some projects couldn't be pursued because the applicants didn't receive grants and don't have the funds to pursue the projects on their own. That doesn't figure into the assessment process.

Skico spreads the word

Skico Vice President of Sustainability Auden Schendler said the Sundeck project will cost $40,000, so the grant covers a quarter of it. Skico has a fixed budget of about $250,000 annually for efficiency projects, not including staff time, he said, so getting a grant allows Skico to stretch its dollars further. The $10,000 for the Sundeck project will be applied to other efficiency projects.

Schendler said the grants to Skico are mutually beneficial.

"When (Skico) gets a grant like that, it helps us do more, helps us tell (the Community Office for Resource Efficiency's) story, helps spread the word, and they tie into a project with very large emissions reductions and a huge mouthpiece," he said.

Previous grants helped Skico fund efficient lighting at the Little Nell Hotel and smart thermostats at the Limelight Hotel.

Newton also said she believes the grants to Skico are a wise use of funds. The Community Office for Resource Efficiency's primary goal is funding projects that help reduce the Roaring Fork Valley's carbon footprint. In that regard, the 2015 Udall grants are a smashing success. CORE estimates the 10 projects it funded will offset 14,781 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent over the life cycle of the projects. That is similar to taking 3,112 cars off the road annually or planting more than 12,000 acres of forest in one year, the office said.

scondon@aspentimes.com