Breckenridge council has commitment issues on renewable energy push |

Breckenridge council has commitment issues on renewable energy push

Eric Westerhoff, the owner of Innovative Energy and a member of the Breckenridge for 100 Percent Renewable Energy Campaign Committee, talks about recent developments in solar power as he asks the Breckenridge Town Council to support a clean-energy resolution at Tuesday's council meeting.
Eli Pace / |

Breckenridge Town Council was reluctant to commit to a 100 percent, clean-energy initiative on Tuesday. Instead, the council unanimously passed a resolution that states an ambitious, but non-binding goal: Power all town facilities entirely with renewable resources by 2025.

The resolution that council ultimately passed was an abbreviated version of a draft proposal produced by a town-created task force that has been working on it for months.

The proposal hinged on language affirming the town’s “commitment” to achieving 100 percent renewable energy for town facilities by 2025 and for the town as a whole by 2035.

Councilman Mike Dudick, for one, had serious problems with the word “commitment” in the proposed resolution. He said he could not support the resolution unless the language was changed to “goal.”

With Dudick firmly against making any commitments that could bind future councils without knowing exactly what that might entail, the rest of council conceded to the change. The resolution also excluded the 2035 portion of the draft proposal.

Dudick was careful to say he’s not opposed to the mission. Next to the town, he believes his own company, Breckenridge Grand Vacations, is the largest purchaser of solar power in Breckenridge. “So I’m aligned with you guys,” Dudick said. “I’m committed at work, but that’s my money. Not the taxpayers’.”

As far as the piece of the resolution about powering the entire town by renewable electricity by 2035 — a move that can’t happen without the town renegotiating its agreement with its power provider, Xcel Energy — that was a bridge too far for more council members than one.

In addition to Dudick, Councilman Mark Burke and Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe had reservations about formally stating either a goal or a commitment to have the entire town powered by 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035.

“I am not opposed to any of this initiative,” Wolfe said as she tried to explain why she couldn’t support the piece concerning the town as a whole for 2035.

“If this is the right thing to do for Breckenridge, we’ll get there, but we do have to balance,” she said. “We do have to weigh any associated costs with this before we commit our citizens to things now or in the future. It’s the only fair and equitable way to serve all of the citizens of our community.”

As she spoke, Wolfe applauded a local group, the Breckenridge for 100 Percent Renewable Energy Campaign Committee, that’s been at the forefront in lobbying effort to pass the resolution. Some of the campaign members are also on the task force that created the proposed resolution. A handful of them sat in the gallery for Tuesday’s meeting, holding signs, wearing buttons and their campaign T-shirts.

During public comments, five people spoke out in support of the resolution, including Nick Thomas, a candidate for Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House. No members of the public spoke out against either piece of the proposal.

Additionally, members of the campaign group said they had collected almost 200 signatures in support of the resolution along with more than 80 additional signatures representing local businesses.

Still, it wouldn’t be enough to secure passage of the complete resolution.

“We have 5,000 residents in our community,” Wolfe said, “so there’s a ways to go before we’ve heard from everyone. Again, if this is the right thing to do, at the right price, at the right time, for the right reasons, it will happen, and we will facilitate this. This is a can-do council, and I do believe that we all, in a unified fashion, will help to get there, but I think our ducks are not quite all in a row for the 2035 (deadline).”

The town’s assistant director of community development, Mark Truckey, who’s also a member of the task force, said they will “regroup” and consider their strategy to getting the second piece of the resolution passed.

He said they might enlist the help of officials from other Colorado towns and cities like Aspen, Boulder and Nederland or Salt Lake City, Moab and Park City in Utah, which have all passed similar 100 percent clean-energy resolutions. Overall, Truckey remained optimistic town council will eventually be able to move Xcel to cleaner energy in the future.

“(The power company is) telling us all the right things at this point, that they want to work toward a common solution,” Truckey said, adding the council’s vote on Tuesday was “a good start” and “definitely shows a commitment” on the town’s part to reduce greenhouse gases.

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