Cutting carbon part of equation for Holy Cross |

Cutting carbon part of equation for Holy Cross

Jeremy Heiman
Special to the Post Independent

Holy Cross Energy isn’t a green giant among electric utilities, but the company is expanding its efforts to be green.

The local energy co-op is increasing its efforts to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy among its customers.

Holy Cross has determined that its customers are concerned about global warming and other environmental issues, and has already instituted corporate policies designed to increase the efficiency of energy use.

“Our customers believe using fossil fuels causes global warming,” said Bob Gardner, general manager of support services at Holy Cross.

“If we use more renewable energy and they use less energy, that’s less carbon put into the atmosphere,” he said.

Burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas for electric power produces carbon dioxide, by far the most common of the “greenhouse gases” that trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere, leading to global warming.

Holy Cross customers who participate in the company’s efforts don’t need to sacrifice. In fact, they can save money, Gardner said.

It’s cheaper to be green

“Consumers spend less on energy if they are more efficient at home,” he said. “They can have the quality of life they want at less cost.”

With energy costs shooting up, this can be an important factor in a family’s budget.

Gardner said the company wants to show consumers how to use less energy.

For some time, Holy Cross has led the “Living Wise” program, distributing energy-efficiency kits to fifth-grade students across the area. The kits contain low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Kids can learn more about efficiency by helping their parents install these items.

The shower heads and the aerators reduce the amount of hot water needed for washing, saving some of the energy needed to heat water. The fluorescent bulbs use one-fourth of the electricity needed by a conventional bulb to produce the same illumination.

The electric co-op is exploring the idea of giving rebates to customers who purchase energy-efficient appliances. Dishwashers, clothes washers, dryers and refrigerators can be purchased that use considerably less power than conventional models. Consumers can look for appliances with the “Energy Star” label that designates energy efficiency.

Wind energy is popular here

The company is also combating global warming by increasing its purchases of energy from renewable sources ” mainly wind power.

Holy Cross doesn’t generate any electricity itself ” it buys power from energy-producing utilities.

About 5 percent of Holy Cross customers, 2,400 of them, are participating in the company’s “Wind Power Pioneers” program. They pay a slight premium to purchase power produced by wind generators in northeastern Colorado, rather than electricity from coal-fired plants.

That’s the highest participation rate in the United States.

About 8 percent of electricity sold by Holy Cross is now generated by wind, and Gardner said the company intends to increase that to 18 percent by 2010.

“The biggest bang we’re going to get is by buying renewable energy,” Gardner said. “If we make a big buy of wind power, we use less coal, which has a direct environmental benefit.”

Homegrown energy pays

Holy Cross is also boosting incentives to residents who generate their own electricity from renewable sources and sell the excess to the company.

Holy Cross customers who have solar electric systems at home now get a premium price for the power they sell back to the company when they use less than they generate.

The same goes for the few residents who have small hydroelectric generators on their property.

Holy Cross is supporting an Aspen Skiing Co. project to generate electricity by channeling the water in its Snowmass snowmaking system through a small hydroelectric generator.

The company is also working with owners of a coal mine near Paonia to develop systems to capture and burn waste methane gas from the mine to generate electricity, rather than venting the waste gas into the air.

Contact Jeremy Heiman: 945-8515, ext. 534

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