Garfield Clean Energy aims to have county’s electricity supply 100% carbon free by 2030

Solar panels near the Rifle Wastewater Treatment Plant on Jan. 25.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Five major goals to be reached by 2030 are currently in Garfield Clean Energy’s crosshairs:

  1. Reduce energy consumption in the built environment by 12%;
  2. Make Garfield County’s electricity supply 100% carbon free;
  3. Increase the share of zero-emissions electric vehicles to 15% of registered vehicles in Garfield County, while supporting alternative fuels and alternatives to driving;
  4. Reduce emissions from electricity by 100% and emissions from natural gas by 10%;
  5. Harness the clean-energy transition for the benefit of Garfield County while addressing any negative impacts.

These goals are highlighted in GCE’s newly adopted update to its countywide energy action plan.

The plan provides a framework for the communities of Garfield County to save energy, expand solar power, advance clean mobility and achieve other emissions reduction goals, a Jan. 24 GCE news release states.

It also serves as a multi-year work plan for GCE, which is a collaborative of Garfield County, its six municipalities, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Colorado Mountain College and Holy Cross Energy.

The plan is the product of a seven-month process involving a volunteer task force of local experts, utility representatives, community members and other stakeholders, as well as input through a public survey. The process was facilitated by Xcel Energy’s Partners in Energy program and Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), the Carbondale-based nonprofit that manages GCE’s programs.

“This plan gives us clear, concrete, achievable goals to work and measure progress toward each year throughout Garfield County,” GCE board member and Carbondale Mayor Ben Bohmfalk said in the release.

The energy action plan updates and expands on the previous 2017 plan in light of current trends in energy use and progress made in the past five years, the release states.

“Rather than each jurisdiction working in isolation, we are coming together and sharing resources to achieve mutual goals,” Bohmfalk said in the release. “This plan will help us stay focused, align our members’ energy and climate action plans, and protect Garfield County residents from the impacts of volatile energy markets and a changing climate.”

CLEER Associate Director Morgan Hill emphasized that the goals and strategies laid out in the plan work together to benefit Garfield County’s residents, economy and environment.

“We in Garfield County collectively spend $65 million on electricity and natural gas annually,” Hill said in the release. “Achieving the goals of this plan will save resources for local families and businesses, improve our quality of life, and create new economic opportunities in the form of clean energy investments and jobs.”

The five overarching goals the task force identified drive the suite of recommended strategies that make up the heart of the plan. 

Glenwood Springs-based task force member Heather McGregor said in the release they started the update process by looking closely at the county’s current energy use and the savings it has already achieved.

“That inspired us to propose new goals that push the envelope, because we are seeing change occur so rapidly,” she said in the release.

The first goal is to achieve “energy efficiency and conservation savings [in the built environment] resulting in at least 12% total energy savings by 2030,” the release states.

Hill noted that the residential and commercial energy-efficiency projects run by GCE and local utilities are already shaving $2.3 million annually off the countywide energy bill. Inflation Reduction Act rebates and tax incentives will help accelerate these investments, she said.

When it comes to having electricity in Garfield County 100% carbon free by 2030, the utilities that serve Garfield County – Xcel Energy, Holy Cross Energy and Glenwood Springs Electric — are themselves already on track to collectively achieve 90% carbon free energy by 2030, the release states. The energy action plan proposes squeezing out the remaining 10% of fossil-fuel-generated electricity by promoting more local community scale and rooftop solar projects.

There are reasons to be confident the county can achieve this goal, the release states. A 2021 study calculated that community-scale solar could provide nearly a quarter of current electricity consumption in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties.

To save energy and reduce emissions from transportation, the plan takes a two-pronged approach to clean mobility, focusing both on electric and alternative-fuel vehicles and on increasing active transportation such as biking, walking and transit.

The measurable component of the transportation goal is to ensure that at least 15% of all registered vehicles in the county are zero-emissions electric by 2030. CLEER Transportation Program Manager Martín Bonzi said figure is in line with the state’s declared goal of having nearly one million EVs on the road by 2030.

EV sales are rapidly growing, according to Bonzi. Still, achieving the goal will require a host of strategies to expand the number of EV charging stations, educate car buyers and assist fleet purchasers, he said.

As for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the energy action plan sets a goal of reducing the county’s greenhouse gas emissions related to energy supply by 30% by 2030. More specifically, the plan notes that this will require reducing emissions from the electric grid by 100% and reducing emissions related to natural gas by 10%.

These targets will be partly achieved by meeting the plan’s other goals and partly by efforts to replace natural-gas appliances with electric ones.

The plan’s final goal aims to maximize the economic benefits of the clean energy transition while minimizing the potential impacts. This entails a set of measures to develop funding sources, policies, workforce training, capacity building and the like.

With the energy action plan as a guide, focus will now shift to implementation, said New Castle Town Council member and GCE Board Member Bruce Leland. 

“In New Castle, the Climate and Environment Commission will be using the plan to help direct its activities,” He said in the release. “Further, the plan provides the opportunity for increased collaboration among our communities, and it should ultimately help to strengthen our regional economy.”

The full energy action plan can be downloaded from the Garfield Clean Energy website,

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.