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Green energy group ponders life after grant

HEIDI RICE
Special to the Post Independent
Photo by Heidi Rice
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Since its inception in June of 2008, the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative (G-NECI) has helped municipalities throughout the county to conserve energy and become more energy efficient.

Much of that assistance has been thanks to a $1.6 million grant from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) – a grant which will expire in June of 2011. The grant, which was issued in the fall of 2008, was originally set to expire in December 2010, but was extended to ensure all the projects on the list had been completed.

But what will happen to the G-NECI after the grant money runs out?



It’s a question that was brought up at a recent workshop meeting of the G-NECI board.

“That’s something we’re working on right now,” said Shelley Kaup, a Glenwood Springs city councilor and chairman of the G-NECI board. “It’s one of our charges for next year – how to keep it going and what is the best way to fund it.”



The G-NECI has nine partner members that include Parachute, Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, the Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA), Garfield County and the Garfield County Library District. The city of Glenwood Springs, Garfield County and the city of Rifle all contributed matching funds to obtain the original DOLA grant.

“In the next couple of months, we’ll be going to the the boards of each municipality and seeing if they can contribute,” Kaup said. “The partnership has been so fantastic and by working together regionally, has really benefitted all the municipalities.”

CLEER (Clean Energy Economy for the Region) a non-profit agency based in Carbondale, works as a subcontractor to the G-NECI, managing its programs and services.

Alice Laird, director of CLEER, said that all the projects listed on the DOLA grant have been completed and that CLEER will continue to seek grant funding for the future.

“The bottom line is that one of the things on the grant was the concept of an ongoing, county-wide program,” Laird said. “The (G-NECI) advisory board recommends that it continue and we’ve been directed to go to different partners and ask for some funding. It’s really up to them what they can afford, but it will require a certain level of funding from the partners.”

Laird also pointed out that a significant amount of funding has already been raised for 2011.

Jim Rada, of Garfield County Public Health and a board member of the G-NECI, manages the DOLA grant money and says as of now, there is still money in the coffers.

“It’s not used up yet and it has allowed us to leverage for additional funding through matching funds or in-kind donations,” he said.

Garfield County has agreed to help obtain a $1 million grant from the state that would help pay for energy efficiency of government buildings.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in how we carry this out long-term, but the county will continue to put money in the 2011 budget,” Rada said. “The municipalities will be asked to proceed with plans to evaluate their buildings and give a report. But some of our partner communities may not have the budget to carry through with their projects.”

Along with the programs being offered to the municipalities, G-NECI has an ENERGY STAR program for new home construction; a clean energy vehicle and fuels program; clean energy transportation and programs for the schools. It also offers rebate programs to both commercial businesses and residents which will pay up to 80 percent.

Sally Brands, a long-time business owner in Rifle, signed up for the Clean Energy Challenge for Businesses for an old office building on Railroad Avenue built in 1904 that she owns with her husband, John Savage. She has changed out all the light bulbs from magnetic to electric and is in the process of putting insulation in the second story ceiling.

“I heard about the program this summer,” Brands said. “The guy who came in and did our (energy) audit was pretty good. I”d replaced the windows, but I never thought about light bulbs.”

Brands received a $5,000 rebate.

With continued grant funding and contributions from the partner municipalities, the G-NECI should be good to go for right now.

“We’ll continue to work on it in 2011 and figure out ways to keep it alive,” Kaup said. “But I’m very optomistic that we can figure it out. We are going to have to get creative and eventually I’d like to see us able to fund it through the energy savings.”

For more information about the G-NECI programs and learn more about energy efficiency, visit http://www.garfieldcleanenergy.org.


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