Carbondale joins Holy Cross renewable offset program

Other regional municipalities consider doing the same

Wind turbine farm at sunset in Limon, Colorado.
Shutterstock image

The Carbondale Board of Trustees on Tuesday unanimously agreed to buy into a program to offset the non-renewable electricity it purchases from Holy Cross Energy with wind power.

The Holy Cross Renewable Energy Purchase Program is for “members who want to use renewable energy but don’t have the access, funds, or ability to put solar on their rooftops,” Jenna Weatherred, Holy Cross vice president of communications, said in an interview.

Carbondale trustees opted for wind offsets that will cost around $10,470 per year on top of the approximately $200,000 energy bill for 11 municipal addresses, which combined used around 1.37 million kilowatt hours last year. The additional cost is “within the realm of cushion that we build into our utility bills that we when we estimate for the year,” Town Manager Jay Harrington said at the meeting Tuesday.

The additional fee is tied to how much energy is used each month. As Holy Cross’ percentage of renewables increases, or if the town uses less electricity overall, the monthly fee as part of the program will decrease.

Holy Cross’ energy mix is currently 39 percent renewable, and the fees offset the remaining 61 percent non-renewable energy, within the Holy Cross system, with either wind, solar or micro-hydro sources.

The town’s biggest user of electricity from Holy Cross is the sewer and wastewater treatment plant, accounting for nearly 1 million kilowatt hours each month.

“The only way you’re going to get to net zero [carbon emissions] at the wastewater treatment plant is if you can get Holy Cross to deliver 100 percent green energy through the grid,” Katharine Rushton, renewable energy program director with Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), told the trustees.

Carbondale partners with CLEER on achieving clean energy goals, one of which is to “accelerate use of renewable energy sources” both in Carbondale and “by working with utilities for greater use of renewables,” according to the town’s Energy Action Plan.

The program is at will and can be stopped at any time, Harrington said.

“From a staff perspective, we see this is more of a stopgap,” Harrington said. “This is an annual, or even just a monthly subscription to buy power this way. There’s no long-term commitments.”

Most of the town’s other renewable and offset contracts are between 10- and 20-year contracts, he said.

The trustees agreed to the program in part because it is low commitment, and partially because helping the energy companies increase renewable energy offerings on the grid would help with the town’s energy goals.

“If we partner with [Holy Cross] and invest in this program with them, that is allowing them move forward” on increasing the percentage of renewables, Rushton said.

She said the town should support the program in order to help Holy Cross get from 70 or 80 percent renewable energy to 100 percent, which is the “piece that is going to take a lot of ingenuity and money.”

Holy Cross said it will use the money from the program to further the goal of increasing the share of renewable energy in the grid, Steve Beuning, vice president for power supply and programs at Holy Cross.

“What we’ve committed to do in the near term is take that money and put it into a fund that we use to provide rebates and incentives for members who do net metering, PV (solar) installations, and efficiency upgrades,” Beuning said in an interview.

Any member can sign up for the Holy Cross program. Basalt and Snowmass Village are part of the renewable purchase program, and Weatherred said another municipality in the Roaring Fork Valley and several governmental bodies in the Eagle Valley are considering joining the program.

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to reflect that the energy bill for Carbondale’s 11 municipal addresses is around $200,000, at 1.37 million kilowatt hours per year. An earlier version said the energy bill was $1.37 million per month.

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