Pitkin County jumps on Energy Smart incentives | AspenTimes.com

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Pitkin County jumps on Energy Smart incentives

ASPEN – Pitkin County homeowners have taken greater advantage of a three-county Energy Smart program, launched in January, than their counterparts in Eagle and Gunnison counties.

The funds made available through a $4.9 million, three-year federal grant aren’t divvied up by county, so it’s first come, first served, according to Adam Palmer, Eagle County’s environmental policy planner.

Eagle County is administering the grant on behalf of the three counties, and the Aspen-based Community Office for Resource Efficiency has been overseeing the program in Pitkin County since Dylan Hoffman, former energy program manager for the county, took a new job out of state last summer. The county has left the position unfilled; county commissioners endorsed the arrangement with CORE as the local administrator on Tuesday. They also received an update on the program’s activities thus far.

Through the first three quarters of this year, 350 local homeowners – Pitkin County residents plus a few Eagle County residents in the midvalley – have enrolled in the program and received an energy audit of their residence, according to Katherine Dart, program manager with CORE. In the three counties overall, 470 audits have been completed, Palmer said.

“So far, Pitkin County has been the highest performer in terms of assessments and retrofits,” he said.

In the three-county area, 146 retrofits to make residences more energy efficient have been completed; roughly 50 of them have taken place in Pitkin County. The program provides rebates for the improvements equal to 40 percent of the cost or up to $400.

The overall goal for the three counties is achieving energy savings of 20 percent or greater in at least 10 percent of existing homes, or 4,100 residences.

As part of a $50 home assessment, available through the program, up to $100 worth of free “quick fixes” are offered on the spot. In Pitkin County, that has meant the installation of 1,400 compact fluorescent bulbs, 60 facet aerators and 70 programmable thermostats, among other measures, Dart reported.

Still in the works is setting up a loan program with a bank for retrofit projects that cost in the $1,000-to-$5,000 range, Palmer said. The goal is to have the energy improvements pay for themselves within the term of the loan. A bank loan isn’t envisioned for less expensive upgrades, he said.

“We’ve had a number of retrofits move forward without any financing at all,” Palmer added.

The Energy Smart representatives are expected to make quarterly reports to county commissioners.

Commissioner Rob Ittner asked for a breakdown of how the grant money has been spent so far.

Also still in the works is an assessment of energy savings resulting from Smart Energy projects, according to Palmer.

Locally, the Energy Smart Resource Center at the Aspen Business Center serves as the program’s headquarters. Go to http://www.energysmartcolorado.com for more information.

janet@aspentimes.com