CORE unveils potential grant recipients for 2014/15

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

The Community Office for Resource Efficiency presented the Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday with its recommendations for use of funds generated through the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program in the form of 2014-15 grants, projects and programs.

The mitigation program gives property owners the choice of mitigating excessive energy use through the installation of on-site renewable-energy systems or by paying an optional impact fee.

CORE administers funds collected through the mitigation program, offering programs and incentives designed to address the impacts of excessive energy consumption.

“Our goal is to offset certain energy consumption and incent someone else to save energy,” said Mona Newton, the executive director of CORE. “We want to raise the awareness of being more energy-efficient while incenting people to take that route.”

CORE is responsible for developing proposals to apply funds collected through the mitigation program. Those proposals must be reviewed and approved by the CORE board.

Final approval of proposed mitigation program expenditures is required by a resolution from the commissioners and the Aspen City Council.

The projects and programs recommended for funding by CORE improve energy efficiency or generate energy using renewable resources that result in significant reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

Among a variety of other CORE initiatives, the mitigation-program revenues also are used to fund an annual major grant cycle, formerly known as the Green Key Grant Program. This year, the program has been renamed The Randy Udall Energy Pioneer Grant, in honor of James “Randy” Udall, CORE’s founding director, who died in July 2013.

These grants support government, nonprofit, commercial and residential projects located within the Roaring Fork Valley, which deliver tangible results in energy efficiency and renewable-energy generation.

Newton and Jason Haber, the energy programs manager for CORE, presented nine potential 2014 Randy Udall Energy Pioneer Grant expenditure recipients to the commissioners Tuesday, totaling $500,000.

They are: Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, $25,000 grant; Aspen Community Church, $20,000; Compass/Aspen Community School, $125,000; GRID Alternatives, $25,000; Hunter Creek Condos/Affordable Housing, $100,000; Marble Distilling Co.,$25,000; Pitkin County Library, $145,000; Rocky Mountain Institute, $10,000, and the town of Snowmass Village, $25,000.

The amounts awarded by CORE are determined by a series of criteria that’s applied to all applications. The grantees will have a two-year window to use the funds awarded.

All the funds used by the mitigation program come from the optional impact fees collected by the city and the county.

Commissioner Michael Owsley said he hopes to see a stronger future incentive to discourage bypassing a more efficient use of energy in favor of paying a little extra money that goes into a mitigation program.

“We need to get more efficiency from the get-go and the ethic of being efficient,” he said. “There’s a sense of, ‘Well, I’m permitted to do it, so I will, and it’ll cost me some money.’ We thought that was going to be a disincentive, and it hasn’t been. That’s problematic.”

CORE recommends mitigation funding for several other projects and programs totaling $1.3 million for 2014-15.

In addition to the Udall grant, the CORE board recommends approval of $800,000 in mitigation funds to accomplish the following programming: community grants for $50,000; design assistance grants for $50,000; a REACH grant program for $100,000; the Big Buildings Efficiency Challenge for $80,000; Energy Smart rebates for $375,000; and $145,000 to support the program delivery costs for Randy Udall Energy Pioneer grants, community grants and design-assistance grants.

The CORE board of directors includes George Newman (Pitkin County), Cindy Houben (Pitkin County), Steve Casey (Holy Cross Energy), Adam Frisch (Aspen), Dave Hornbacher (Aspen), Chris Jacobson (Snowmass Village), Pam Zentmyer (Carbondale), Rob Leavitt (Basalt) and Bill Stirling (Energy 2000 Committee).

The mitigation-program funding will have another meeting scheduled with the commissioners in the near future that will allow for the public to comment and give final county determination of the proposed grants.