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Governor’s renewable energy policy filtering down to towns

State office begins reaching out to communities

In the past few years, city and state governments across the nation have been setting clean energy goals, such as setting carbon emissions reduction benchmarks. Colorado, for instance, will require the state’s electricity providers to generate 20 percent of their power with renewable technology by the year 2020.

 

 

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter created the Governor’s Energy Office in April 2007 as a way to prioritize clean energy policies and legislation, and as a resource to the public.
According to Western regional representative Joani Matranga, more than 20 laws relating to energy use were passed in Colorado in 2007. Some of these included House Bill 1281, setting a goal of 20 percent renewable energy use by the year 2020; and House Bill 1309, an energy-efficiency benchmark for future public school construction projects.
The Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) has already allocated $6 million in funding to several notable universities, including the Colorado School of Mines and Colorado State University, for research in bio-fuels and other alternative and clean energy methods.
Matranga says the GEO represents a shift in the involvement of government in the realm of clean and renewable energy. “The government is fully recognizing we have an economy solidly based on fossil fuels. The future is, we have to make a transition to promote renewables in our economies,” she says.
Last fall, Mt. Crested Butte community development administrative assistant Theresa Henry and Gunnison city planner Kim Antonucci created an awareness campaign of the GEO programs called the Gunnison Valley Sustainability Initiative. The initiative was successful in convincing the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte to sign on to some of the GEO’s programs.
According to Henry, Mt. Crested Butte allocated $2,500 in its 2008 budget for the Energy Star program, and $3,800 for the Insulate and Seal program.
Under the Insulate and Seal program, a homebuilder or homeowner can have an approved contractor insulate a house and then receive a rebate of 20 percent of the total insulation cost, or $300.
Henry says the Energy Star program consists of training and education on the benefits of an Energy Star building, as well as potential incentives for homebuilders interested in earning an Energy Star rating.
Matranga says, “These are the two best programs for trying to upgrade energy efficiency in the community.”
Locally, Matranga thinks the performance contracting program would work well because of the strong building industry. Under this program, the GEO can provide consultation on all aspects of building performance upgrades.
There are also grant programs for residential solar electric and solar hot water. “Those are the basics we want to get done at the residential level,” Matranga says of the solar options.
Unfortunately, Matranga says the GEO was established too late, and missed the 2008 budget cycle for many towns, so some of the additional programs will have to wait until next year’s cycle.
Mt. Crested Butte town manager Joe Fitzpatrick says he thinks the town has taken the right steps with the two programs in place, but believes there are many other areas, such as improving energy efficiency in the town’s own buildings, that need to be addressed.
Mt. Crested Butte mayor Chris Morgan agrees and says, “I think we can be very creative in how we help reduce the cost of energy to our constituents in addition to reducing energy usage.” Morgan says energy usage would only be “more problematic and costly as we move forward.”
Taking advantage of the state’s programs was also the topic of discussion at the Crested Butte Town Council meeting. Crested Butte Town Council member Billy Rankin noted that the Town would like to utilize more the state’s programs but needs more help to do so. He suggested the town should hire a staff person to work with the Office of Resource Efficiency (ORE) on instituting and applying for programs. “There’s a disconnect,” he said. “We need a person with the town and it needs to be a staff person.”
Mayor Alan Bernholtz said it seemed the town was moving in that direction. He asked ORE executive director Gesa Michel, who was present at the meeting, to help the town design an energy efficiency department. “We have the best intentions but not necessarily the best focus and direction,” he said.
For more information on the Governor’s Energy Office or the other programs it offers, visit www.colorado.gov/energy.

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