2018 Year In Review: Community’s efforts to curb climate change (No. 1)
A local Boy Scout might have said it best: “If this global warming keeps up, we might not even have a winter.”
He was addressing Breckenridge Town Council less than two months before the ball would drop on 2017, as the town’s elected officials were weighing a clean-energy resolution that helped play into a much larger movement across the state and nation.
Like much of Colorado’s High Country, the county suffered through a pitiful winter during the 2017-18 ski season with very little snowfall only to be battered by wildfires this summer. With the federal government seemingly rolling back environmental protections across the board, Summit County’s response to growing fears of climate change rose to become the top story of the year in 2018, especially considering how the answer came in consistent on a number of different fronts.
First out of the gate in Summit County, Breckenridge set the tone late in 2017 when the town joined others across the country and world by committing to curb greenhouse gases.
For its part, Breckenridge adopted resolutions setting out its commitments to have all town facilities completely powered by renewable electricity by 2025 and the town as a whole — including homes and private businesses — by the year 2035.
After passing the second of these resolutions in November 2017, town staff reported one year later that Breckenridge was about two-thirds of the way to achieving its 2025 goal for town facilities.
Optimism remains ahead with a possible new solar arrangement, and the town has been ticking off energy-efficiency projects for quite some time now while it’s made great strides rolling out a new fleet of electric buses.
Meanwhile, the commitment to having the whole town powered by renewable resources by 2035 has been framed as a statement to Xcel Energy, the town’s sole electricity provider, as local officials have said there’s really no way to meet the commitment without a shift in the company’s power portfolio.
It didn’t stop with Breckenridge though. On Feb. 13, the Summit Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution committing the county to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.
“When you look at Summit County, enhancing and protecting the environment is one of the best ways to protect our economy,” Commissioner Dan Gibbs said. “Moving towards 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 is not only an important goal benefiting this generation and future generations in Summit.”
In adopting the resolution, the county joined other Colorado counties and towns like Aspen, Avon, Boulder, Lafeyette, Longmont, Nederland and Pueblo. Larger cities outside the state have also made similar commitments, including Atlanta, Orlando, Salt Lake City and San Francisco, just to name a few.
Explaining her reason for supporting the commitment to clean energy, Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier expressed the utmost importance while saying the political climate in Washington means that small communities must take the initiative.
“We’re already seeing it with these shorter, warmer winters,” she said. “Climate change will have a frightening impact for our economy and our lifestyle.”
Renewable energy could soon be on its way to Frisco as well. The town recently formed a task force to map out how it too might get to 100 percent renewable in the not-too-distant future.
During a public presentation, a representative of the newly formed task force outlined how and why Frisco should work to achieve this goal.
“One reason is what we heard from the U.S. government with their climate assessment,” said Fran Long, referring to the National Climate Assessment’s conclusions about the accelerating effects of climate change. “Look around. Last year the snowfall was terrible. But it really got everyone thinking that climate change is real, renewable energy is getting cheaper and maybe we should be going with more renewable options. It’s just the right time, due to a confluence of many factors.”
If growing concerns about climate change were the reason, the shrinking price of renewable energy was the glimmer of hope that’s making people believe these commitments are not just a pipe dream anymore.
Even more promising might be Xcel Energy announcing earlier this month that it intends to provide 100 percent carbon-free power in all eight states it serves by 2050.
Furthermore, the company also aims to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent of their 2005 levels by 2030, meaning Xcel, Colorado’s largest electric utility, is the first major provider in the U.S. to make such a commitment.
While it remains unclear whether Frisco will jump on board, town council’s reaction to creating the task force makes it seem like they’re a likely ally in the push for clean energy that’s taking place across the greater Summit County community.
“I’m fully on board with everything that has been discussed,” said Councilman Hunter Mortensen, who also agreed to join the task force. “How we get to the end part is more on us. The commitment is easy; it’s about making sure we can pull it off in the right way. But I think that’s the exciting part as well. We’re the envy of every mountain town. Everybody wants to be Frisco’s size, have our amenities and our location. To add this to our resume is a pretty important thing.”
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