Breckenridge aims to shrink its carbon footprint with renewable energy | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge aims to shrink its carbon footprint with renewable energy

Residents of Breckenridge continue to push town government to commit to 100 percent renewable energy.

The Breckenridge Town Council discussed the proposal at its meeting on Tueday, March 14. Mark Truckey, the assistant director of community development, presented the findings from a recent study done by the town on renewable energy. Truckey's presentation had information and cost estimates on the town's current sustainable energy. The town currently gets 21 percent of its energy from two local solar arrays and one in Lake County.

Truckey mentioned the National Renewable Energy Lab as an agency that could do an audit of the town to see what additional renewable options the town has.

RELATED: In Breckenridge a grassroots campaign pushes for renewable energy in the town.

Council members weighed spending $64,000 to buy wind credits from Xcel energy to put them at the 100 percent mark right away. But many of them felt that this option would not create lasting change in the town. The council leaned toward creating a task force similar to the one created for parking and transportation. Town manager Rick Holman recommended keeping the task force at 10-12 people, including both a council member and someone from the town staff. Jeffrey Bergeron offered to participate.

Beth Groundwater, a Breckenridge resident that brought the idea of 100 percent renewable energy to the council last December, said she was pleased with the direction of the presentation, and would encourage the council to act quickly on bringing in outside opinions.

"The town's benefitted from experts in the past," she said.

Community members have been attending council meetings and creating panels on renewable energy in the town. After the election of President Donald Trump, Groundwater decided it was time to take conservation efforts into her own hands. She organized statements from the town of Aspen, which has a renewables plan in place, as well as a local chapter of the I AM PRO SNOW campaign.

The campaign works with individual municipalities on creating renewable energy plans. It was started by the Washington D.C.-based Climate Reality Project. Kim Stevens, a regional field organizer with the project, recently partnered with Groundwater to host a 100 percent Renewable, 100 percent Doable panel. The panel was held on March 8 and had more than 60 community members attend.

"We know that Breckenridge, and really our mountain communities in Colorado in general, really see first-hand impacts of a changing climate," Stevens said. "It was really a way to bring the community together to share stories of how we see the local and regional impacts of climate change, and to really show that we have the solutions and the tools at our finger tips to act."

Councilwoman Erin Gigiello sat on the panel as the town representative. She was joined by Jess Hoover from the High Country Conservation Center, Arapahoe Basin Ski and Snowboard Area sustainability supervisor and guest services assistant manager Mike Nathan, and conservation program manager for the Rocky Mountain Region of the Sierra Club, Greg Carter. Stevens was the moderator of the panel. Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe also attended the event.

Stevens said that Carter recently helped to push Pueblo, Colorado to committing to 100 percent renewable energy. She added that this was a game changer for the campaign, as Pueblo faces incredibly high energy costs.

Nathan talked about A-Basin's sustainability projects, such as solar panels on the Kids Center. He also said that the resort is also considering moving toward using 100 percent renewable electricity and they would be looking more into the process after the end of the ski season.

"There will be some challenges to do so, but this is an important project for us," wrote Adrienne Saia Isaac, a communications manager at A-Basin, in an email to the Summit Daily. "We're working with on a project that will allow us to purchase solar panels in an array to generate renewable energy rather than just pay for renewable energy credits."

Both Wolfe and Gigiello are interested in the proposal, but want to make sure that the solutions moving forward are ones that will be a good fit for Breckenridge. Gigiello said that reducing the town's carbon foot print is about more then just designating money to becoming sustainable.

"I think we can do better," she said. "Conserving energy is good for everybody."

Wolfe said that the council has previously looked at bringing in wind power, but that it wasn't a reliable resource in this area. There is the possibility of buying land in other areas for wind farms. She said that her area of interest is how the town can reduce emissions by getting cars off the road and improving transit in the town. The council has also expressed interest in what the costs would be to bring in electric buses.

"That's a highly visable thing that we could start to move forward that I think will make a big difference," Wolfe said.

Stevens said that prior to Trump's election, local governments weren't sure what smaller entities could do to create solutions for global issues like climate change. More recently however, she's noticed that "flip on its head." Local communities are now banding together more to create lasting change for their local environment.

"I think just the attendance and the excitement was a testament, people are really looking to their local governments to move forward with solutions on climate change," Stevens said. "Our state and our local communities are like 'We cannot wait four years to act on climate change,' and so communities are coming together and are pulling up their boot straps and are ready to do the work themselves."