Working together to cut energy costs around Garfield county |

Working together to cut energy costs around Garfield county

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Eight area towns and agencies are banding together to get energy audits of their facilities, with the ultimate goal of lowering the costs to heat, cool and light various buildings and saving the taxpayers money.

According to the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative (GNECI), the potential savings in energy costs will be in the millions of dollars, and there is an equal potential for lucrative employment for a variety of local companies, which could end up conducting the audits and constructing the improvements to the audited buildings.

The eight are all partners in the GNECI, which works with the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) and other organizations to promote greater attention to energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy resources by society at large.

The eight partners – Garfield County, the Garfield County Library System, the Roaring Fork Transit Agency and the towns of Parachute, Rifle, Silt, New Castle and Carbondale – are all signed on to a request for proposals from a baker’s dozen of “energy services companies” endorsed by Governor Bill Ritter’s GEO.

The only city in the county that is not participating is Glenwood Springs, which officials say is because Glenwood already is engaged in one “performance contract” with a company doing an energy audit and retrofit for the city’s community center.

According to Heather McGregor, communications officer for the Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), which manages GNECI, there was an earlier plan to seek bids from energy services companies (referred to as an ESCo, pronounced “ess-co”) for each of the partners. But it turned out that the energy services companies weren’t interested in doing audits for what McGregor termed “small potatoes” – towns and agencies with very few buildings to be audited .

So, McGregor explained, local officials came up with the idea of lumping all eight entities together to make up one “request for proposals.” Once the energy services companies bid on the overall project, she said, each governmental agency would be free to shape its own contract with the company selected through the bidding process.

Alice Laird, director of CLEER, said that “all the different entities working together creates … kind of a critical mass” that makes it worth the effort of the company that ultimately is selected.

Although there will be no estimate on what level of energy-efficiency improvements might be needed until after the audits are completed, charts on the GNECI website show that the potential savings in energy costs over the course of 15 years could be more than $3 million for Garfield County and the cities of Rifle and Carbondale alone.

The project calls for audits of a total of 59 buildings spread over the eight entities, from Carbondale’s 14 buildings down to Parachute’s two.

And, Laird said, the money to pay for the different energy efficiency upgrades will come out of the savings realized over the years.

“Performance contracting is, essentially, a financing technique,” Laird explained.

The ESCo selected for the audits and upgrades, thanks to a pre-selection process by the GEO, will be able to do the audit and the installation of any improvements without any up-front fee, and then take payment over the 15-year life of the project, Laird continued.

At that point, she said, the improvements will be owned by the town or agency and will continue to yield savings, but the contract will be concluded and there will be no more payments to the ESCo that did the work.

And, she said, the ESCo is already committed to handing some or all of the audit work and improvements to contractors in the Garfield County region, thereby providing a double boost to the local economy – jobs for local companies, and savings for local governmental entities.

According to a schedule worked out by GNECI, the ESCo is to be selected by mid-November, and the audits completed by late winter or early spring, 2010.

Then, if all goes as planned, the work of retrofitting the facilities as needed could be done over the summer.

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