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Holy Cross goal: 20% renewable

Janet Urquhart

Holy Cross Energy isn’t sweating this week’s passage of Amendment 37, which forces Colorado’s biggest suppliers of electricity to derive 10 percent of the energy they sell from renewable sources by 2015.That threshold’s too low, as far as the local electrical cooperative is concerned. Holy Cross recently set its sights on increasing the clean, renewable energy in its power-supply mix to 20 percent by 2015.In addition, the utility has established new rebate programs for consumers who purchase a variety of energy-efficient appliances or who install their own renewable-energy systems.Holy Cross serves about 50,000 accounts in the Roaring Fork and Eagle River valleys, including roughly 15,000 customers in Pitkin County.A survey of its customers indicated they’d like to seek Holy Cross do more to increase its supply of renewable energy, such as wind-generated or hydroelectric power, and to encourage energy efficiency and conservation, according to Bob Gardner, Holy Cross spokesman.”They were willing to see their rates go up slightly in order to accomplish that,” he added.The utility’s new program will boost rates by an estimated 1.5 percent – about $1 per month per consumer.Currently, 7.5 percent of the utility’s energy mix comes from renewable sources. In addition to setting a goal of 20 percent for the renewable component, Holy Cross has also devised a way to quantify its success – calculating the resulting reduction of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.Given its current energy-supply mix, most of which comes from fossil-fuel sources (primarily coal-fired power plants) and the amount of energy it sells, Holy Cross determined an average of 1.67 pounds of carbon is produced per kilowatt hour as a result of the energy used by its customers, according to Gardner. (A 100-watt light bulb burning for 10 hours uses a kilowatt hour of electricity, by the way.)In upping the renewable energy in its mix to 20 percent, Holy Cross can reduce its “carbon intensity” to 1.5 pounds – a 10 percent drop, Gardner said.”I think it’s a different way of talking about how the energy we use affects our environment,” he said. “It’s a way for us to measure how much we’re successful in using renewable energy sources, increasing energy efficiency and practicing energy conservation.”Carbon is an element of the “greenhouse gas” carbon dioxide, which is produced by burning fossil fuels and considered linked to climate change.While Holy Cross would like to increase its purchase of renewable energy, it has since 1998 allowed its customers to pay a bit more in order to fulfill some of their own energy needs with wind-generated power or locally produced electricity, whether from a hydroplant or photovoltaic system.A few consumers purchase enough to match their energy needs. About 2,700 – or 5 percent – of Holy Cross’ customers choose to participate in the green-power program, Gardner said.Now customers have a new conservation incentive – rebates for appliances and compact fluorescent bulbs that boast the Energy Star rating from the U.S. Department of Energy. A new refrigerator, for example, can net a Holy Cross customer a $75 rebate from the utility. Installation of set-back thermostats, which function on a timer, are also eligible for a rebate.The qualifying appliances must have been purchased and installed after Sept. 15.Holy Cross is also offering rebates for the installation of renewable electrical-generation systems, whether it’s someone’s rooftop photovoltaic panels or a small hydropowered generator on a stream.Recently, a customer installed a wind turbine on his property between Glenwood Springs and Rifle and connected it to the grid, Gardner said. That individual could apply for a rebate of $2,000 or the cost of the installation, whichever is less, he said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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