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Aspen home energy audit program expanding

ASPEN – All Aspen residents now have access to discounted home energy audits, courtesy of the city government.

The Aspen City Council Tuesday directed officials in the utilities department to move forward with their plan to expand the government’s energy audit program so it includes all residents within the urban growth boundary.

Before, the $125 rebate was only available to customers of the city’s utility company, which serves about 50 percent of Aspen residents. That left the other half of residents without access to the city’s energy audits, which offer strong incentives toward efficiency improvements, thus reducing consumption and utility bills.

The city has been inundated with calls from people who have heard of the rebate program and have requested audits only to find out they weren’t eligible because they weren’t on the city’s electric grid, said Jeff Rice, the city’s utilities energy efficiency manager.

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“We have to turn them down and we don’t want to do that,” Rice told the council. “The problem is nobody is doing what we are doing at the level we are doing it.

“We get a lot of requests outside of our service area.”

Home energy audits cost about $350 by individuals who are certified by the Building Performance Institute, which is considered the model for auditing. If a person lives in Aspen, his or her audit bill will be credited $125 by the city of Aspen, making the price tag only $225.

And if a resident makes efficiency improvements that will reduce energy and consumption, the city will offer rebates that cover the cost of the audit.

“We’ll cover the $225 cost of the audit if you do $225 worth of improvements,” Rice said.

Improvements can be small changes to make the home more efficient, such as weather stripping and caulking. Those types of improvements can reduce heating and cooling costs in a home between 20 and 50 percent, Rice said, adding residents will see savings on their utility bills as a direct result.

The rebate program is funded by a tiered utility rate structure that was approved by the council in 2006 and charges some customers more based on their high consumption.

That enabled the city to use $25,000 to launch the BPI model in conjunction with Colorado Mountain College to provide training and create a workforce of certified energy auditors.

Rice said nine individuals in the valley have been certified through the program.

In order to fund the expanded program, the city will apply for a grant from the Community Office of Resource Efficiency (CORE). But because grants aren’t accepted until May 1 and the award is expected in June, the city’s water utility department will encumber $25,000.

“We want to get the program off and going,” Rice said, adding that providing the money upfront serves as a stopgap for CORE’s grant cycle. He said he’s confident that CORE will award the grant to the city.

Utilities Holy Cross Energy and Source Gas provide efficiency programs but they lack the level of service and incentives offered by the city of Aspen. Rice said he is working with Source Gas to provide a rebate if a customer has a home energy audit done.

A qualified BPI energy audit analyzes an entire home or building as opposed to inspecting various aspects independently. So, an auditor will inspect for gas leak detection, gas combustion, carbon monoxide and potential energy efficiency improvements.

“It’s all encompassing and incorporates health and safety,” Rice said. “Everything we do is related to energy reduction.”

Councilmen Torre, Steve Skadron and Derek Johnson said they were supportive of the program, as was Mayor Mick Ireland, who recently paid the full price of an energy audit at his employee housing unit because he isn’t a customer of the city’s utility.

“Can we do this retroactively?” he joked about the rebate for all Aspen residents.

“I think this is long overdue,” he added about the expanded program.

Individuals interested in an audit can e-mail to audit@aspenenergyefficiency.com or call Rice at 920-5118.

csack@aspentimes.com


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