Garfield Clean Energy is excited to announce that we’re teaming up with Xcel Energy and CLEER to update our countywide Energy Action Plan, and we’re looking for volunteers to help.
The plan, last updated in 2017, sets countywide goals for increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy, and maps out steps for meeting the goals.
Conditions have changed significantly in five years. Costs of solar panels and other clean-energy technologies have dropped dramatically. The electric utilities that serve the county have adopted more aggressive renewable-energy targets – for example, Holy Cross Energy has set a goal of 100-percent renewable electricity by 2030. Electric vehicles are increasingly common, and major federal and state funding for charging infrastructure is in the pipeline. A raft of recent state legislation will incentivize still more changes.
The plan update will be facilitated by Xcel’s Partners in Energy program, which supports such community planning efforts. The process formally kicks off on May 11, and community members are invited to participate (see sidebar).
“Energy is the lifeblood of our society, and we’re in the process of literally transforming our entire energy system,” says Jason White, RFTA planner and GCE board chair. “So planning our energy future is as critical as planning, say, transportation or housing. This collaborative, integrated approach to planning is key to maintaining a strong, resilient community.”
The 2017 plan estimated that Garfield County spends a collective $68 million annually on energy (excluding transportation). Finding ways to increase energy efficiency and develop more local renewable energy is an important way to both manage costs and harness economic benefits, notes CLEER director of programs and services Maisa Metcalf. (CLEER manages Garfield Clean Energy’s programs.)
Since 2017 GCE has implemented a number of the plan’s key recommendations, including organizing a countywide “solarize” campaign, promoting a standardized approach to solar permitting, accelerating community-scale solar projects, and boosting participation in residential and commercial energy-efficiency programs.
The 2022 plan will update the countywide energy goals and identify specific, actionable strategies to achieve them. The strategies will address all the main energy-using sectors of the local economy: commercial, residential and institutional buildings; business, industrial and agricultural operations; transportation (a sector that wasn’t included in the 2017 plan); renewable energy; design and construction; and policies and funding sources.
The final product will be a written document, which we expect to be completed by the end of the year.
Garfield Clean Energy was one of the first entities to create an energy action plan with Xcel’s Partners in Energy program, and it remains one of only three to do so across an entire county. The process brought together more than 30 stakeholders – representing municipalities, utilities, local businesses and nonprofits – to collectively develop an energy vision for the county.
“We’re looking forward to working with Garfield County again,” says Hollie Velasquez Horvath, regional vice president, state affairs and community relations for Xcel Energy–Colorado.
“Garfield Clean Energy has done a tremendous job of mobilizing the county on clean energy, and they’ve proved they can jump right in and execute on the strategies and tactics the community decides on in this plan. Their work exemplifies what it means to build a strong energy partnership that delivers what our communities and customers want in their energy provider.”
Ingrid Wussow, Glenwood Springs Council member and GCE Vice-Chair, agrees that having a countywide collaborative like Garfield Clean Energy creates economies of scale and the ability to leverage resources and expertise for plan implementation.
“Rather than each community just creating a local plan, joining together as a county-wide effort, GCE has been able to dramatically increase energy efficiency and renewable energy, especially for a rural region,” she says.
GCE’s strong emphasis on data tracking is an essential part of the mix, Wussow adds: “Lots of jurisdictions and utilities have ambitious energy or emissions targets, but it’s tough to deliver on those targets without the full package that we’ve got here in Garfield County – a plan with specific action steps, effective programs to carry out the steps, and ongoing tracking of progress against the targets.”
Although Xcel is taking the lead on the energy plan update, Metcalf expects that the other utilities that serve Garfield County – Holy Cross Energy, Glenwood Springs Electric and Black Hills Energy – will also participate, as they did last time.
“Partnerships with all the utilities that serve the region are key,” she says.