City of Aspen rebates drive down energy use and revenue |

City of Aspen rebates drive down energy use and revenue

While Aspen’s energy rebate program has reduced stress on its power grid, officials have pointed out that less use means less revenue.

Commercial and residential services are projected to make up $6.5 million of the city’s $7.5 million in electric utility revenues, according to the 2014 budget.

“On one hand, our dream is to not have anybody use energy in town,” Councilman Adam Frisch said Wednesday. “The problem is if no one uses energy, nobody pays bills, and the department has less money.”

He added that he doesn’t see it as a problem — given the fact that the greater goal is to reduce energy consumption as much as possible in the community. Any budget shortfalls, he said, can be dealt with after the fact.

“It’s not a quandary. The city can find revenue elsewhere,” he said.

Aspen offers 25 percent rebates of up to $5,000 for upgrades to lighting, refrigeration, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Recently, the focus of the program has shifted from residential to commercial customers. Currently, Aspen Electric represents a total of 1,900 residential accounts and 1,000 commercial accounts.

At Monday’s council meeting, City Manager Steve Barwick pointed out that there are many more decision makers on the commercial side.

“It’s a really good opportunity,” said Ryland French, Aspen’s energy-efficiency intern. “There are less individuals to reach but more opportunity for savings.”

Commercial accounts represent about 30 percent of Aspen Electric’s accounts but about 60 percent of energy usage.

French has talked to around 100 businesses in Aspen, informing them of an Oct. 30 open house at Keating Fine Art, where interested businesses can view LED light displays, meet business owners who have made upgrades and learn more about energy rebates.

The city supplies about half the town’s grid, while Holy Cross Energy makes up the other half. Like the city, Holy Cross offers a similar rebate program, and its focus is shifting from residential to commercial.

The goal, French said, is to help customers manage utility bills, make their space more comfortable and reduce environmental impact. The Utilities Department has partnered with the Community Office for Resource Efficiency to provide the rebates. The commercial energy efficiency rebate program officially started in 2009.

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