Garfield Clean Energy
Location: Garfield County, Colorado
Seed Funding: $545,000 – a portion of Boulder County's $25 million funding
Target Building Types: Residential and commercial
Town of Carbondale
City of Glenwood Springs
Town of New Castle
Town of Silt
City of Rifle
Town of Parachute
Garfield County Public Library District
Roaring Fork Transportation Authority
Garfield County Clean Energy Offers a Clear Choice for Colorado
Garfield County is known for having the second highest concentration of oil and gas wells in Colorado. Since June 2009, however, Garfield Clean Energy has helped reduce carbon emissions by 8,305 metric tons—the equivalent of taking nearly 1,445 cars off the road, according to nonprofit energy consultant Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER). Funded in part by a 2008 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Garfield Clean Energy offers government, transportation, commercial, and residential-based solutions to a community otherwise dominated by gas development.
Using $545,000 in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, Garfield Clean Energy created an online interactive tool, called the Garfield Energy Navigator, in 2011. The tool tracks the daily energy use and savings of more than 90 large, public buildings throughout the Colorado county and automatically analyzes renewable energy production and energy use in buildings. Improved energy management by facility managers in response to these findings has already helped schools and public buildings to save 10 to 30% of their energy use without upgrades. Garfield Clean Energy's key program components make it a potential role model for other rural communities with a local oil and gas industry.
Program Design: Coaches Help Sell Energy Efficiency
Financing: Reserve Credit Fund Eases Cost of Energy Upgrades
Driving Demand: Heroic Challenge Sparks Media Interest
Workforce Development: Convenient Training Builds Local Workforce
Coaches Help Sell Energy Efficiency
Businesses and homeowners are encouraged to be energy "heroes" by taking the Garfield Clean Energy Challenge. The program assigns each participant that signs up for the Clean Energy Challenge a personal energy coach, who walks home and building owners through the energy evaluation and upgrade process from start to finish. The coach gives each participant's property an energy assessment and recommends improvements that can make their home or business more energy efficient. High-efficiency residential improvements ranging from gas boiler upgrades to attic insulation are then eligible for rebates of up to $500.
According to Erica Sparhawk, Garfield Clean Energy's program manager, the county's commercial challengers have benefitted the most from the direct energy coaching. Coaches help businesses track their energy use, get an energy evaluation, work up an energy action plan that fits the goals and budget of the business, and carry out priority energy improvements. The coaches also help businesses connect with contractors and make the most of utility rebates. Although Garfield Clean Energy doesn't yet offer direct commercial rebates, its website and coaches provide business participants with a wealth of information about other rebates, discounts, and federal tax credits for which they may be eligible.
Reserve Credit Fund Eases Costs of Energy Upgrades
According to CLEER, 64 businesses have had energy assessments, and 35 have achieved measurable energy results through the Garfield Clean Energy Challenge as of November 2011. In addition, 271 households are actively participating in the residential energy-saving program, and 108 households have completed energy upgrades.
To lower the cost burden of energy efficiency upgrades, Garfield Clean Energy worked with the Colorado Housing Finance Authority to establish a financing mechanism to make energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions more affordable for residents and businesses. This Garfield Clean Energy Reserve Credit Fund makes loans available through any bank that serves Garfield County residents.
"Homeowners often have more time, but busy business owners have found having an energy coach really helpful."
-- Erica Sparhawk,
Program Manager, Garfield Clean Energy
Heroic Challenge Sparks Media Interest
The high level of community involvement has caught the attention of local media outlets, furthering the program's marketing dollars and reaching broader audiences than paid advertisements alone.
In March 2012, Colorado's 39,000-square-foot Garfield County Fairgrounds received press coverage for its 2011 installation of a 440-panel rooftop solar electric system atop the riding arena's roof. After the riding arena was connected to the Garfield Energy Navigator, data showed high energy use at nights and on the weekend. Staffers began shutting down the building during those peak times and immediately saw results. These behavioral changes, paired with a lighting upgrade that Garfield Clean Energy helped county staff install, saved county taxpayers approximately $700 per month in winter 2011. What's more, the bulb replacement alone cut the arena's December energy use by 72%, from 22,000 kilowatt hours down to 6,000 kilowatt hours.
Convenient Training Builds Local Workforce
Garfield Clean Energy is building a qualified workforce in the county by providing training to local contractors, energy professionals, and builders. In 2011 alone, CLEER and Garfield Clean Energy held more than a dozen workshops and trainings attended by more than 500 professionals. Such trainings allow contractors to better grasp the wide variety of local utility programs and learn how selling efficiency can help them boost their businesses.
Not only does the energy efficiency program host its own workshops, but it also partners with utilities and other statewide groups to bring training workshops to the Western Slope of Colorado. These local opportunities spare trainees from traveling to the Denver and Boulder areas for similar trainings, saving them both money and time. Certification courses offered through Colorado Mountain College's Green Building Academy prepare students to analyze the energy efficiency of buildings, and use energy efficiency analysis to recommend remodeling or upgrade options.
U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program