In Breckenridge, a grassroots campaign pushes for renewable energy in the town
December 14, 2016
The election of Donald Trump as president has sparked concern among those fighting against climate change.
For Beth Groundwater, a Breckenridge resident, a Trump presidency meant that she needed to take action.
"We aren't going to be able to account for help from the federal government," she said.
Groundwater organized a proposal calling for the Breckenridge Town Council to create a committee that would help the town reach a goal of using only renewable energy. More than 20 people attended the meeting on Tuesday in support of the idea.
The town is currently at 15 percent renewable energy, said director of communications, Kim Dykstra.
Groundwater said that some of her concerns also stemmed from the economic impact on Summit after a dry start to the winter season. Emily Tracy, who attended the meeting, said that ski resorts across the country are worrying about the impact climate change may have on their business.
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"I think we're at a very concerning point in time," Tracy said. "(Ski companies) are concerned from a financial point of view, and I think that our community should be concerned for the same reason, it's a major part of our economy."
Tracy, a Breckenridge resident and the Democratic State Senate District 8 candidate, has had a professional interest in climate change for several years. She was involved in a group in Canon City called Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, which led her to get a master's of public administration in environmental management from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs in the early '80s. She now teaches a sustainability course at Colorado Mountain College.
At the council meeting, Groundwater cited the city of Aspen, which is nearing its goal of using renewable energy exclusively. The city created the Canary Action Plan in 2007, which pushed for 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years, as well as reducing community emissions over time.
A statement from Ashley Perl, the director of the Canary Initiative, and from Aspen's Mayor Steve Skadron, was read at the meeting. The town has offered to help Breckenridge should officials choose to create their own plan.
Perl told the Daily that efforts to commit to renewable energy in Aspen started as early as the '90s. She added that one of their goals is to also be a model for other towns and municipalities striving to become more sustainable.
"The bigger picture here is we all need to be a part of these efforts," she said.
Currently, the city's utility program, Aspen Electric, serves about half of the population with 100 percent renewable electricity. However, the rest of the town is served by Holy Cross Energy, which is only 30 percent renewable. Perl said that the Canary Initiative is working with Holy Cross to ensure the company continues shift toward alternative energy sources.
The Climate Reality Project, based out of Washington, D.C., created a campaign called I AM PRO SNOW. The project has worked with municipalities across the country like Aspen in committing to renewable energy.
Kim Stevens, a regional field organizer with I AM PRO SNOW, said that the program helps local entities to build aN energy plan and connects them with experts. On Dec. 6, Boulder made a commitment to use renewable energy. Both Breckenridge and Boulder use Xcel Energy as a utility provider. Stevens said that this could give Breckenridge the opportunity to learn from Boulder's experience with the company.
She added that since mountain communities have already begun to see impact from climate change, they have become leaders in making the switch to renewable energy.
"Breckenridge has an opportunity to really put themselves on the map," she said.
Groundwater said that "the ball is rolling," and that the town has to act. She plans to bring a series of speakers to the town council meeting to stress the importance of the issue. John Warner, the former mayor of Breckenridge, attended the meeting and expressed his support of the commitment.
Tracy said that if Breckenridge moves forward with renewable energy it could send a positive message to other communities.
"Anything we can do at the local level and the state level will help as far as contributing in some small way to the global issue," she said.