Local energy program brings in big money | AspenTimes.com

Local energy program brings in big money

Jeremy Heiman

The Renewable Energy Mitigation Program, adopted by the city of Aspen and Pitkin County about one year ago, has been more successful than even its creators had imagined.

The program, known as the REMP, has collected over $500,000 from the development community since it was put into effect last December. The target for annual collections was $150,000, said Joani Matranga, administrative coordinator for CORE, Aspen’s Community Office for Resource Efficiency. The REMP was added to the building code of Aspen and Pitkin County at CORE’s recommendation.

The first set of REMP-funded projects, approved by the City Council and the Pitkin County Commissioners last June, will cost about $165,000, Matranga said. The projects will prevent the release of nearly 2,400 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the next 20 years, she said.

“It’s just amazing how much carbon dioxide we’re going to be able to offset with these programs,” Matranga said. “The community’s going to get a lot of benefit out of this.”

Projects which have already been built include a micro-hydroelectric power plant on Ruedi Creek and the solar hot-water systems on five buildings at the Burlingame affordable housing project.

The $60,000 spent for the Burlingame hot-water project is expected to save residents $44,000 in water heating bills over 20 years.

The micro-hydro project, built and mostly financed by Ruedi Creek residents Tom Golec and Jerry Peters, will keep four million pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air over the next 20 years. REMP funding of $10,000 has been budgeted for the project.

“The big kicker in this was the micro-hydro,” Matranga said. “People always say alternative energy projects are not cost effective. But these funds help projects reach the point of cost effectiveness.”

CORE has also budgeted REMP funding for green designs of public buildings, incentives for use of solar-electric systems, mini-grants for energy efficiency, rebates for installation of solar hot-water systems and a zero-interest loan program to help homeowners and businesses purchase renewable energy systems.

People who build houses are assessed fees in lieu of installing renewable energy systems. If developers of new houses want to build energy-using amenities such as hot tubs, heated pools or snow-melt driveways, they may mitigate the energy loss either by installing renewable-energy-producing devices on site or by paying cash to the city and county.

The energy consumption of snow-melt systems, pools and spas is capped at 20 percent of a total energy budget for the house, set by the building department. The fee, paid by owners when a building permit is issued, pays for off-site production of the energy the amenities would use for 20 years.

“We’re just saying people should start producing some of their own energy when they build a house,” Matranga said. But the program has been well accepted by the development community, too, she said.

The funds go to projects which reduce energy consumption or produce green energy. REMP monies can be used for installing energy-efficient lighting in public buildings, installing solar hot-water systems in affordable housing projects, for small hydroelectric projects, or for photovoltaic systems at public schools.

Local officials believe the REMP may be the first program of its type.

“REMP is really a visionary program,” Matranga said. “We don’t know of another program like this anywhere.”

The ultimate goal of the REMP is keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels are burned to produce energy and is the most important of the “greenhouse gases” that lead to global warming.

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