Aspen is third U.S. city to reach 100% renewable energy

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

Aspen is one of three U.S. cities to run on 100 percent renewable energy, according to members of the city’s environmental and project departments.

The shift to energy that is generated from natural resources — including wind power, solar power and geothermal heat — follows a “decade-plus” city goal, said city Utilities and Environmental Initiatives Director David Hornbacher.

“It was a very forward-thinking goal and truly remarkable achievement,” Hornbacher said. “This means we are powered by the forces of nature, predominately water and wind with a touch of solar and landfill gas.”

The first two U.S. cities to reach the goal were Burlington, Vermont, followed by Greensburg, Kansas.

Aspen’s transition to 100 percent renewable occurred Thursday after the city signed a contract with wholesale electric energy provider Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska, in order “to achieve this final leg of our goal,” Hornbacher said.

The city had been using about 75 to 80 percent renewable energy beforehand, former city Project Coordinator Will Dolan said.

Aspen eliminated coal and added to its wind power to replace the remaining 20 to 25 percent of non-renewable energy and reach its 100 percent goal, Dolan said.

Aspen receives its wind energy from about four wind farms in Nebraska and South Dakota, Dolan said, adding that the city also uses energy from Ruedi Reservoir, Maroon Creek and Ridgway Reservoir, which is a hydropower facility near Montrose. Aspen Electric Utility serves about half the community, while Holy Cross Energy powers the other half, Hornbacher said.

While Aspen set its goal of 100 percent renewable energy about 10 years ago, the effort really kicked off in the 1980s with Ruedi and Maroon Creek hydroelectric projects, Dolan said.

“We’ve demonstrated that it is possible” and that a small, progressive community can work together to be a pathway for others, Hornbacher said.

“Realistically, we hope we can inspire others to achieve these higher goals,” Hornbacher said.

Canary Initiative Director Ashley Perl agreed with Hornbacher, adding that it’s important for Aspen to reduce its environmental footprint, “but it’s more important to share that to be able to inspire others.”

Perl said the city plans to launch a big national campaign and also celebrate locally with an “Aspen electric-pride party so that everyone can show their support and really be proud of what we’ve accomplished as a community.”