Joani Matranga, Western Regional Representative, Colorado Governor’s Energy Office
The bad news is that Colorado’s energy efficiency rating according to ACEEE slipped to 19th in the nation. The good news is that states are leading the way to develop a clean energy economy.
While the issue of climate change is a non-starter with the public, we can get most of the way toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions with energy efficiency policies, which have more public support. The Colorado Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) has written a climate action plan that will be coming out soon. Energy efficiency is a key part of the plan.
Over the last four years, the state has passed more than 50 energy-related legislations. Those policies and programs got a big boost from the $180 million in Recovery funds GEO received.
Broad renewable energy deployment is still hampered by lack of information, capital and services. GEO’s RechargeColorado program is the one stop shop to get information to commercial and residential energy users. Starting Oct. 27 Recharge Colorado will launch a marketing blitz to push out the program’s available funding. There is a lot of money left for appliances and insulation, and for renewable energy systems, as well.
To address the financing issues, GEO is working with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority to offer retrofitting loans to small businesses. Green Business Loans are available for starting up manufacturing operations to produce energy efficiency and renewable energy equipment. Homeowners can access Clean Energy Financing for homeowners to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds are available to fund projects of $50 million or more. The state legislature has approved the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, but it is on hold at the Federal level.
Many Recovery-funded services have been launched and are going strong. Energy performance contracting is successfully helping schools and public buildings improve energy efficiency where bond issues can’t be passed. GEO is working with local entities to tighten building codes. Although new home starts in the state are flat, Energy Star for Homes has been going well. The Main Street Efficiency program is building capacity in local communities to improve energy efficiency in rural areas. Also, an Industrial Challenge is calling on the state’s 100 largest energy users to reduce their consumption this year.
GEO has released the Renewable Energy Development Infrastructure Report listing strategies for the electric sector. A key finding is that energy efficiency can help utilities avoid building new generation.
Federal grants have been a great source of direct funding for cities and counties developing their own sustainability plans. For 52 rural communities, 18 community energy coordinators have been hired. Most of these are nonprofits that provide technical assistance to rural communities. People are more open to addressing water, waste and energy issues.
The city of Boulder received a $25 million Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant to partner with Denver and Garfield counties to replicate programs that upgrade building efficiency. Another $5 million EECBG went to Eagle to do the same with Pitkin and Gunnison counties.
Going forward, the state of the economy continues to drive change. People are also relatively concerned for the environment, the governor has shown leadership and public/private partnerships have been very productive.
However, to reach GEO goals, the qualified workforce needs to grow. Rural cooperatives are still trying to figure out how the goals fit into their mission.
Even so, the conversation has advanced a lot in just a few years.