2023 Energy Action Plan for Garfield County

Since 2010, Garfield Clean Energy has been an innovative leader in advancing energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean transportation to protect the environment and build a strong, resilient and diverse economy.

GCE's programs and services are guided in large part by its Energy Action Plan, a long-range planning document first created in 2017 and updated in January 2023.

The 2023 plan is the product of a seven-month process facilitated by Xcel Energy’s Partners in Energy program and CLEER, the Carbondale-based nonprofit that manages GCE’s programs, and guided by a working group consisting of local experts, utility representatives, community members and other stakeholders.

The following summarizes the goals and key strategies detailed in the plan:

GOAL 1: Energy Savings in the Built Environment

Achieve energy efficiency and conservation savings resulting in at least 12 percent total energy savings by 2030 over a 2019 baseline, which will require an average of at least 1.5 percent total annual energy use reduction from 2023 through 2030. As technology and funding improves, work for increased total savings.

Analysis shows that energy use has increased faster than population in the past five years, so achieving a 1.5 percent annual reduction is an ambitious goal. Yet it is doable – and good for the local economy. Energy-efficiency projects assisted by GCE to date are shaving $2.3 million annually off the county’s collective energy bill. 

Strategies include:

  • Ramp up programs to help homes and businesses save energy, with additional rebates and financing
  • Expand GCE’s innovative approach to data-driven Active Energy Management
  • Provide technical assistance and incentives for best-practice new buildings
  • Advise local governments on adopting the most advanced building codes

The total cost of energy used in Garfield County homes, businesses and industries is $65 million annually.

GOAL 2: Carbon-Free Electricity

Garfield County electricity will be 100 percent carbon-free by 2030 through grid-supplied resources and local renewable installations, as a means to a stronger, more resilient, and energy-secure economy and region.

Garfield County has seen dramatic growth in solar over the past decade and is regarded as a solar leader in Colorado. The electric utilities serving Garfield County have each set these carbon-free electricity goals:

  • Xcel Energy: 80 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030
  • Glenwood Springs Electric: 100 percent carbon-free electricity as of 2019
  • Holy Cross Energy: 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2030

While these utilities are working to make the grid cleaner, increased local renewables and storage will be critical for meeting the goal and realizing local resilience and economic benefits.

Strategies include:

  • Expand programs such as Solarize Garfield County to help more people and businesses harness the benefits of solar
  • Seek additional sites and opportunities for community-scale solar
  • Pursue other local renewables including geothermal and microhydro

Garfield County’s total solar capacity – including both net metered (rooftop) and community-scale – is now estimated at 18 MW.

GOAL 3: Clean Mobility

Transition at least 15 percent of all registered vehicles to zero-emissions electric by 2030; support alternative fuels where electric is not yet feasible or where alternative fuels are desirable; and help increase mode share for biking, walking, and transit.

Transitioning away from single-occupancy internal combustion engine vehicles and toward cleaner forms of transportation will have multiple benefits for Garfield County, including improved air quality, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and enhanced community vibrancy and resilience. This goal takes a two-pronged approach to clean mobility, focusing both on electric and alternative fuel vehicles and on increasing active transportation such as biking, walking and transit.

Strategies include:

  • Continue to increase access to EV infrastructure
  • Provide technical assistance and incentives to accelerate fleet conversions
  • Harness state and federal funding to ensure access to EVs for all
  • Support alternatives to driving through programs, code updates and outreach

EV use in Garfield County has increased rapidly in the last several years and is poised for rapid growth.

GOAL 4: Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Garfield County region will reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to energy supply by 30 percent by 2030.

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to the electric supply by 100 percent by 2030.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emission related to natural gas usage as well as related to utilities’ commitment to cleaner delivery and supply by 10 percent by 2030.

Many of the focus areas and strategies included in the plan contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. This new goal for GCE was recommended for inclusion in this plan by the Energy Action Team. The goal is intended to capture the cumulative impact of actions to reduce energy-related emissions and focuses on building electrification strategies not covered in other goal areas.

Strategies include:

  • Promote programs and incentives for building electrification
  • Work with the natural gas industry to eliminate leakage in production and delivery
  • Work with natural gas suppliers to increase availability of efficiency measures

While emissions from electricity use are falling, natural gas emissions are still rising. Shifting the mix is key to cutting overall emissions.

GOAL 5: Clean Energy Economic Development and Jobs

Accelerate and harness the economic benefits of energy efficiency, clean energy, and clean mobility for the benefit of the residents and communities of Garfield County and find ways to address any economic impacts of transitioning to clean energy.

Since 2009 GCE has offered programs that create measurable economic benefits. These benefits can be increased by ramping up programs to reach more households and businesses, focusing on local job creation and workforce training, and working with state partners to address any negative impacts resulting from energy transitions.

Strategies include:

  • Mobilize the funding, incentives and financing needed to implement the Energy Action Plan
  • Invest in education, training and capacity building; identify gaps in needed skills and workforce; work with state and other partners to fill gaps
  • Pursue policies and funding to help Garfield County address any fiscal or workforce impacts

Local governments receive significant revenue from the oil and gas industry – an example of the economic impacts that must be addressed.