Garfield County spends $219M on energy needs | AspenTimes.com

Garfield County spends $219M on energy needs

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County residents and businesses could save around $43 million per year just by cutting their energy consumption by 20 percent, according to a report released this week by the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative (G-NECI).

Part of the ongoing initiative, sponsored by a coalition of nine local governments, school districts and other special districts, is to produce an inventory of energy use and spending throughout Garfield County.

The inventory report concludes that the county spent $219 million on energy in homes, businesses and vehicles in 2009.

If residents, business owners, industry and local governments worked together to cut that level of consumption by 20 percent, it would equate to a $43 million local “stimulus package,” said Michael Ogburn, one of the inventory researchers and co-author of the report.

“We have an opportunity to reduce the amount of energy consumption in Garfield County and keep that money in our pockets,” said Ogburn, who works with Carbondale-based Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), managers of the G-NECI effort.

“That’s an annual stimulus package that would never go away if we can achieve that level of savings,” he said. “It’s a target reduction that we believe everyone can work toward.”

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G-NECI has estimated potential energy savings of 30 percent just in its commercial energy efficiency program. Residential and government efficiency efforts could be even greater, according to the report issued June 15.

Colorado’s energy conservation campaign targets energy savings of 20 percent by 2012. Likewise, three local municipalities, the city of Glenwood Springs and the towns of New Castle and Carbondale, have targeted reductions in energy and fossil fuel emissions of between 20 and 30 percent by 2020.

Longer-term goals for local governments include efforts to reduce emissions as much as 80 percent by 2050.

“This is a significant amount of money that could be used to fuel our local economy in many other ways,” said Greg Russi, vice chair of the G-NECI advisory board and a New Castle Town Council member. “The savings from energy efficiency can be very tangible economic development.”

The G-NECI research looked at a full year of consumption of electricity, natural gas, propane, gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel by Garfield County’s homes, businesses and governments, as well as for cars, trucks and airplanes.

Countywide, consumption of electricity in 2009 came out to $70 million, natural gas totaled $20 million, and propane totaled nearly $5 million.

“These figures come from actual sales data from the electric and natural gas utilities and propane dealers serving Garfield County,” according to the report. “All together, utilities represented 46 percent of total spending on energy.”

The inventory did not measure energy use by the county’s natural gas industry beyond building utility bills, Ogburn explained.

“There is a difficulty in measuring that, and a lot of different variables that we couldn’t measure accurately,” he said.

On the transportation side of the energy equation, gasoline and diesel consumption in Garfield County totaled $120 million in 2009. The figure was estimated using Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) mileage counts from state highways and Interstate 70, multiplied by fuel economy standards and fuel price averages calculated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

A total of 802 million road miles were logged for the year in Garfield County. And, that number didn’t even include miles driven within city and town limits or on county roads.

“We were surprised to some extent by the total miles traveled in the county in a year,” Ogburn said. “Over 50 percent of that is local traffic.”

By including the pass-through traffic on I-70, the study adequately made up for local trips not counted by CDOT, he said.

Aviation fuel accounted for $4 million spent last year, based on actual fuel sales at the Garfield County Airport near Rifle and the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport.

The inventory also included the 2009 energy spending for Garfield County government, its six town and city governments, the county library district and the three school districts in the county.

Total energy costs for governmental entities came out to $5.7 million in 2009. Governments spent $1.5 million on gasoline and diesel and $4.2 million on electricity and natural gas.

“It is also important to note that, when we spend money on energy there are jobs created locally as well. We don’t discount that,” Ogburn said. “But a majority of the money that’s spent on energy also goes outside the community.”

The inventory will be used to establish energy efficiency targets and will guide the various efforts that are under way to save energy and money for households, businesses and local governments.

Other researchers on the project included Dan Richardson of Schmueser Gordon Meyer and Rick Heede of Climate Mitigation Services.

The complete energy inventory report can be viewed at the G-NECI website, http://www.garfieldcleanenergy.org.