Energy summit draws large crowd of green-minded folk

Workgroups now tasked with developing energy action plans

Bring back the horse and carriage! Believe it or not, more use of horses as personal transportation was just one idea that came up during last week’s Gunnison Valley Energy Summit, hosted by the Office for Resource Efficiency.




The summit was a meeting of government officials, energy specialists and regular community members to generate ideas to lead the valley into a green energy future.
“It exceeded my expectations,” says ORE executive director Gesa Michel. “I was so pleased about the number of people involved and who was involved. I think we had an incredibly good mix.”
The summit was the result of an Intergovernmental Energy Resolution signed by Crested Butte, Mt. Crested Butte, the city of Gunnison and Gunnison County in September 2007. The resolution, released earlier this summer, mandated the creation of a valley-wide inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. The inventory serves as a baseline for community leaders and planners to determine where the valley’s key emissions contributors are, and where the most effective pollution cuts can be made.
The second component of the intergovernmental resolution called for the creation of specific energy action plans for each of the four contributing parties.
Ideas generated at the energy summit are intended to provide the building blocks that four different workgroups—one for each of the municipalities—will use in the creation of each energy action plan. Michel says, “Within the energy plans, we’re going to look for the low-hanging fruit—those programs that can be implemented pretty quickly with a quick payback. The other thing we’re looking for is enthusiasm from the community members to become participants.”
The summit began with a keynote speech by Dan Richardson, a senior energy consultant with Schmueser Gordon Meyer, who spoke about the best opportunities and strategies for developing a green energy economy. Approximately 190 people came to hear Richardson’s speech at the Center for the Arts on Wednesday, September 10.
The next day of the summit also began with several speeches.
ORE founding board member Allison Gannett gave an overview of the intergovernmental energy resolution, the formation of individual energy action plans, and the future steps the Gunnison Valley community will need to take to capitalize on sustainable and renewable energy practices.
ORE board member George Sibley then gave an overview of the greenhouse gas inventory, which details that the Gunnison Valley was responsible for the emission of 512,000 pounds of greenhouse gases in 2005.
Former Boulder mayor Mark Ruzzin then gave his analysis of the greenhouse gas inventory, and talked about the city of Boulder’s efforts to become a more sustainable, renewable energy-focused community. Ruzzin is also the president of the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), and discussed the opportunities available currently for sustainable focused communities.
Lucinda Smith, senior environmental planner for the city of Fort Collins, talked about that city’s efforts at greenhouse gas reductions. Michel says a notable point to Smith’s speech is that Fort Collins is now in the process of developing a second energy action plan, after weighing the success of a plan that was passed several years ago.
Michel says each of the day’s speakers helped provide the tools, ideas and encouragement the rest of the attendees would use later in the day during the brainstorming workgroups.
Then, representatives from each of the partners in the intergovernmental agreement, Western State College, and Gunnison County Electric Association gave a “show and tell” presentation of their current efforts at becoming more sustainable and renewable energy-driven.
Then the main productive portion started as the audience of well over 100 people broke into workgroups, each assigned to generate “green” ideas for a specific topic. The topics included power production, transportation, sustainable living, and green building. Participants could join any workgroup they were interested in—the building workgroup drew many city planners and local contractors, the sustainable living group drew a large number of college students, and so on.
During the building workgroup session, Gunnison resident Richard Karas spoke of the upcoming annexation in Gunnison. He said he hopes the development agreement for the annexation includes energy efficiency standards, use of passive solar building techniques, and a convenient street layout to minimize transportation costs. He also made a plea for alternative energy. “There are vast expanses of open land included in that annexation area. There are opportunities for active solar, for generating power and heat. There even might be opportunities for geothermal. I wish the city would pay attention to all those opportunities. (The annexation) is going to roughly double the size of the city,” Karas said.
In the power group, Sibley talked about bringing balance back to national power production through local generation. “At the individual level we can do some energy production that will bring us more in balance at the central production level,” Sibley said.
 Other members of the group asked for more efficient use of existing fuel sources, such as more efficient burning of natural gas and coal. Gunnison National Forest district ranger Jim Dawson had a unique idea. “Let’s get serious about exploring available alternative renewable energy sources, specifically wood. In this basin, we have a lot of it, and right now it is being very underutilized,” Dawson said.
In the transportation group, Crested Butte councilman Billy Rankin suggested businesses create incentives for car-pooling, which would be added directly to the business pay scale.
Others members suggested free bike rental programs and car sharing.
After an hour or so of brainstorming, the members in each group voted on their favorite concept. Michel says, “Every idea is valuable.
Every idea is important, but one has to set priorities. We can’t do it all at once.”
After voting on the most popular ideas, the groups assembled together to present their findings.
Gunnison resident Melissa Osborne spoke for the sustainable living group. She said educating residents on sustainable living practices was important. “The more educated we can be, the better choices we will all make for our families, our friends, and the trees and mountains,” Osborne said. She said other popular ideas from her group included supporting local businesses and farmers, and using community gardens and greenhouses. “It’s also generally a healthier way to go,” she said.
Following the presentation, energy summit coordinator Julie Ann Woods asked for volunteers to assemble into a different set of workgroups assigned to develop the energy action plans for the three municipalities and Gunnison County. Michel says at least 15 people have signed up to participate in each group. The groups have until March 2009 to complete their respective action plans. Michel says the plans will be delivered to their respective municipalities, with a list of recommended energy efficiency programs, ordinances and resolutions.
ORE is now assembling a final report on the summit, which should be up on their website next week, at

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