Group: valley ripe for energy savings |

Group: valley ripe for energy savings

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Seth Portner, deputy director of the Governor's Energy Office, addresses the audience during a panel discussion about utilizing cleaner energy throughout the the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys. The event was organized by CLEER, or Clean Energy Economy for the Region. Chad Spangler/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A local group estimates the region from Aspen to Parachute spends roughly $250 million or more a year on energy.

Perhaps almost a third of that could be saved by aggressive programs to reduce energy usage, experts suggested Friday.

The $250 million figure, from Clean Energy Economy for the Region, or CLEER, assumes the region’s population of about 80,000 uses the same amount of energy as the statewide average. Local factors such as large homes, second homes, lots of rich people and wealthy visitors, lots of hotels, a commuting workforce and the booming natural gas industry mean the region’s energy use could be much higher than the state average, according to CLEER.

“The Aspen to Parachute region is spending at a minimum $250 million a year for electricity, natural gas and transportation fuels,” said Heather McGregor, a CLEER staff member.

She spoke during a break at CLEER’s meeting Friday, when some 60 to 100 people attended to hear about how to advance the clean energy economy at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

Craig Perkins, executive director of California’s The Energy Coalition, described programs in California he says could cut energy usage by 30 percent. He suggested local cities and counties enter into an agreement to develop clean energy and a climate action plan with three goals.

It would analyze and establish a baseline for the region’s total carbon emissions and energy usage. The agreement would also waive fees for properties with energy efficient efforts such as solar panels. And the entire region could agree to building code guidelines that exceed state standards.

Cutting energy usage is important at a time when natural gas prices are going to double in a year or two, Perkins said.

Dan Richardson, a senior energy consultant with the Schmueser Gordon Meyer engineering firm and former director of Aspen’s global warming initiative, said setting a baseline for energy use and getting communities to compete against each other in terms of energy use would get people motivated.

“I think as Americans what we thrive on most is competition,” he said.

Seth Portner, with the Governor’s Energy Office, said, “When I think about communities I think that there’s just a tremendous business opportunity.”

He suggested conducting an inventory of local businesses and their energy use then making the case to them for change, which could save money over the long term.

Auden Schendler with the Aspen Skiing Co. said the region must get going on “high leverage” opportunities, such as optimizing local utilities and implementing public purpose charges and tiered rate structures.

“The utility is the sexiest thing out there,” he joked.

He suggested state and local governments approach businesses, guide them through energy use reduction efforts and offer to pay for half the costs.

A Holy Cross representative said the region is already at an advantage because the company’s customer attitude surveys show people here are “proactive toward environmental stewardship.”

Carolyn Tucker, a New Castle resident, said grassroots educational efforts are needed to get people involved. Schendler agreed, noting, “There’s a lot of information out there that’s not getting to people.”

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