Aspen City Council considers regulations for power customers |

Aspen City Council considers regulations for power customers

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

Editor’s note: This article has been modified from its original version.

The Aspen City Council got an initial look Tuesday at three potential energy-efficiency strategies for commercial, residential and public-sector power customers.

The work-session discussion was part of the city’s ongoing collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which has been contracted for $69,000 to evaluate Aspen’s electric-energy portfolio. During a presentation by two lab officials, City Manager Steve Barwick said that in order to achieve its goal of 100 percent renewable energy, Aspen will, at some point, need to shift toward mandatory energy-efficiency programs on commercial and residential sides. Right now, the city offers voluntary rebate programs.

Barwick said nobody likes the thought of regulation in any area. However, this one has “a very high payback from a monetary standpoint” for consumers and the community as a whole. Jeff Rice, utilities efficiency manager for the city, said that whichever program the council chooses, additional consultants may be needed for implementation, and he suggested the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for future contracting.

The three strategies offered by lab officials were dynamic pricing, mandatory benchmarking and point-of-exchange upgrades. Dynamic pricing uses cost of electricity at varying times of use to send a signal to the consumer to reduce consumption. Passing utility costs through to customers is, for example, one aspect of dynamic pricing. Mandatory benchmarking would require consumers to be audited on energy efficiency, with the potential for fines for those who fail to comply, if the city chooses that route. Point-of-exchange upgrades would mean energy-performance audits and mandatory upgrades at the time of a sale, lease agreement or significant renovation at a property.

According to the lab, Aspen has an estimated electricity-growth projection of 1.3 percent per year. In 2009, output was about 65,000 megawatt-hours per year, and that number is expected to rise to 75,000 by 2020.

Energy reduction varies for all three options. Point-of-exchange reductions are projected to be 1.3 and 1.6 percent per year, while dynamic pricing would equate to a decrease in the range of 1 and 2.5 percent, and mandatory benchmarking came in between 1 and 2.4 percent.

Although council members expressed interest in all three, one particular option received a lot of discussion from board members as well as Utility Department officials. Councilmen Dwayne Romero and Adam Frisch said they both are interested in discussions for mandatory benchmarking. After fielding their comments, Rice said it’s possible to perform energy-performance audits today, see where customers stand and then enforce mandatory upgrades within five years.

Councilwoman Ann Mullins said she is a fan of the point-of-exchange program, a strategy Frisch did not support because it might force the city to regulate real estate transactions. Rice, however, said the cost of upgrades at the point of exchange would be kept down, and Frisch said he was willing to hear more on the topic.

The council will revisit the three options at a future work session.

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