Breckenridge Town Council wants more details before promising to go 100 percent renewable | SummitDaily.com
Eli Pace
epace@summitdaily.com

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Breckenridge Town Council wants more details before promising to go 100 percent renewable

Members of the Breckenridge for 100 Percent Renewable Energy Campaign Committee hold up a petition signed by 140 town citizens as they try to push Breckenridge Town Council to adopt a nonbinding resolution in support of having all town facilities powered by renewable resources by 2025 and the entire town by 2035.

A town-created task force that produced a roadmap for powering Breckenridge on 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 laced it with ideas for achieving that target, but the town council wants a more detailed itinerary before taking action.

The action in mind — a nonbinding resolution — was never meant to be anything more than an overarching statement of town support for the plan and its goals of achieving 100 percent renewable electricity for all town facilities by 2025 and all of Breckenridge, public and private, by 2035.

Representatives of the task force noted as much, and they added that a number of other cities and towns have already adopted similar resolutions. Furthermore, they said, those towns haven't done nearly as much as Breckenridge already has toward achieving a 100 percent renewable energy goal and asked for a similar promise.

Still, no dice.

"I'm all about this, but it's hard to make promises for future councils," said Councilwoman Erin Gigliello, explaining that she faced some of those problems when she and Elisabeth Lawrence first joined council. "I prefer to act … but I'm a little resistant to make promises and not be able to fulfill them."

Mayor Eric Mamula and other council members echoed Gigliello's statements, saying they liked the roadmap but want more information, including potential costs, before voting on a resolution.

The roadmap presented at Tuesday's council work session lists a number of stops along the way, or possible scenarios that could help Breckenridge achieve the 100 percent renewable electricity goals, such as getting involved with a solar installment in an adjacent county or entering into power purchase agreements. However, most of the ideas are focused on town facilities.

The items listed come with estimates for how much electricity they might generate and how that measures up against the total power used, but it fails to mention how much it might cost the town for each specific item.

While the council wasn't ready to move forward with the resolution Tuesday, no elected officials expressed opposition to the roadmap or its goals themselves.

"2025 is pretty easy for me in my brain," Mamula said. "We influence our own future up here, so we can commit. You can tell us what the budget figure is and we can get to 100 percent renewable for town facilities by 2025; I don't think that's a stretch."

Still, without cost estimates and a specific timeline for when ideas contained in the roadmap could be implemented, council sent the task force back to the lab with clear instructions to return with a more detailed plan.

"I love these ideas," Gigliello said. "I love these scenarios. These options are what we were looking for, but what is that price … ?"

After the work session, two members of the task force concerned council had misunderstood their request for a resolution returned to address elected leaders during public comments of the regular council meeting.

"I wanted to clear up a misconception you guys might have," said Fran Long, a member of the 100 percent renewables committee and a former employee of Xcel Energy.

He explained how he recently retired from Xcel, where he was responsible for helping develop many of the power utility's renewable-energy programs and is "considered one of the solar experts in the company."

"I had to understand what was going on in the market place, so I developed quite the solar expertise," he told council as he tried to explain why cost estimates weren't included for many of the roadmap ideas. "What I wanted to clarify was, I think everyone was thinking that solar, from this point forward, is a big upfront investment."

Nowadays, it really isn't, Fran continued, providing examples of individuals who went with solar power without putting any money down upfront.

"Most large solar purchases, those are all (power purchase agreements)," Long said of the deals in which a developer agrees to build a solar array on a customer's property, often at no cost to the customer, and then sells the power generated by the panels to that same customer at a fixed rate, usually cheaper than the retail price of electricity.

The lower price offsets the customer's purchase of electricity from the grid, while the developer pockets income from selling electricity, as well as any tax credits and incentives generated from the system.

"That's good to know," Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe replied.