The computer kiosk in the lobby of Clean Energy Economy for the Region or CLEER is a portal to a whole new way of understanding energy use. It’s called the Energy Navigator, and CLEER’s Mike Ogburn, who helped create the program’s energy-tracking software, is only too happy to demonstrate how it works. “It’s like taking data that’s usually stored in filing cabinets and making it readily available,” he said.
The Navigator is an interactive program, which means energy use information for close to 100 buildings throughout Garfield County is literally at your fingertips. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” said Ogburn as he guided me through screen after screen of colorful graphs and charts, monitoring total energy demand, CO2 emissions, energy sell-back to the grid, and all kinds of “live” data from Carbondale’s Third Street Center and other sites.
For someone whose brain shuts down at the mention of kilowatt hours and British Thermal Units per square foot, the Energy Navigator made it all, well, clear. And fun, even exciting.
“It’s the essence of some of the work we do,” said CLEER co-founder and executive director Alice Laird. She added that the Energy Navigator makes energy-use information simple. “It empowers people with understanding energy use and [by] making it accessible.” It also links the region by providing information on a broad spectrum of public and private buildings.
CLEER’s mission is to increase energy independence, reduce CO2 emissions, and boost the transition to a clean energy economy. “We have to reshape economic opportunities,” said Laird. “And if we’re concerned about the impacts of energy extraction, we need to use fossil fuels wisely but begin to replace them with fuels with less impact.”
Laird has been a champion of clean energy use in the Roaring Fork Valley and Garfield County for more than 20 years. In the early 1990s, while at Rocky Mountain Institute, she developed the “Community Energy Workbook: A Guide to Building a Sustainable Economy.” The book kicked off the Energy Action Plan (EAP) for the city of Aspen and Pitkin County. The Community Office for Resource Efficiency or CORE was formed in 1994 to implement the EAP in Pitkin County and the upper Roaring Fork Valley.
But CORE’s reach extended only to Carbondale and did not include transportation fuels. “Some of us felt that it would be great if energy efficiency and petroleum independence efforts were available throughout the county to grow jobs,” said Laird. So, in 2003, CLEER became a separate nonprofit to work on transportation fuels from Aspen to Glenwood Springs.
Then, in 2008, CLEER and Garfield County applied for and received a $1.6M New Energy Communities Initiative grant from the state of Colorado. Garfield Clean Energy (GCE) was set up to receive the funds and CLEER contracted with GCE to implement the funds. CLEER is now the nonprofit that currently provides services for GCE. “The partnership between Garfield County, all Garfield County towns, the library district, RFTA and CLEER have been essential for success,” explained Laird.
For the past eight years, GCE and CLEER partnerships with CMC, the Colorado Energy Office, Summit and Roaring Fork school districts, cities and counties along the Colorado River corridor and many others have cut more than $2M in energy costs for 170 businesses, 230 homes and 55 government buildings. Rebates, revolving loan funds, and the Garfield Clean Energy Credit Reserve Fund have made residential and commercial energy upgrades easier and more affordable.
Fifty solar arrays grace public and private buildings throughout the county. CLEER-assisted energy efficiency projects in buildings and transportation have kept 14,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere. And the list goes on. “CLEER now works in more than 15 counties and relies on a team of experts in various aspects of clean energy and energy efficiency,” said Laird, emphasizing the importance of a collective effort.
Laird said it would be great to join forces with CORE. “Ultimately, [CLEER and CORE] exist to serve the public,” she said. “We need to find a way to reduce the confusion.” Meanwhile she and her staff of nine want everyone take advantage of what CLEER has to offer. Try starting with the Energy Navigator at garfieldenergynavigator.org.