Carbondale Energy Conference Tackles Funding, Opportunities

Nov 14, 2013

Colorado is more energy efficient than any of its neighboring states… and it’s one of the most efficient in the Intermountain West. But federal money is running out for some programs, and organizations across the state are looking for new ways to fund initiatives they say are making a difference. That was one theme at a conference in Carbondale on Wednesday, November 13th.

Reporter: The event was organized by Clean Energy Economy for the Region, or CLEER. Attendees came from across the state gathered in town hall for the event...

and their backgrounds were varied, too. John Kloster - Prew is with a group based in Golden that represents a private sector push to use less energy. That’s the Energy Efficiency Business Coalition, or EEBC.

John Kloster - Prew: “Another acronym. One of the big things I’ve learned since coming to the great state of Colorado and joining the energy efficiency team is that you guys have way too many acronyms.”

Reporter: Joking aside, the acronyms represent different kinds of details and programs involved in energy efficiency. Federal funding for at least one of those, the Better Buildings program, ran out this year. The drop in funding for programs like it is one reason Colorado landed at sixteenth in a recent nationwide energy efficiency survey. If funding had continued, the state could have ranked higher.

Susie Strife: “I’m Susie Strife. I’m the Sustainability Coordinator of Boulder County. We’ve have so much program momentum coming into this year with a lot of our programs being funded by the better buildings program from the Department of Energy.”

Reporter: Strife is trying to figure out how to keep the program’s momentum going… and find another way to pay for it. She’s at the conference to see if there’s a way to do that by collaborating with other similar programs across the state… and she’s not alone. Alice Laird is Director for CLEER.

Alice Laird: “There’s just a lot of success to date that we need to build on. One of the things that we’re running into is that the Department of Energy grants that helped fund some if this work are wrapping up, but a lot of local governments and local funding sources are stepping up."

Reporter: Laird says the conference is meant to provide concrete ideas to help energy organizations thrive-- and help people like Susie Strife, who are figuring out how to survive when major funding runs out. Laird and her colleagues helped organize Garfield Clean Energy, a local clean energy authority… and one Laird says is the first of its kind.

Alice Laird: “Ok, if this makes sense to do on a regional scale, and all the work of our organization, Garfield Clean Energy, and CORE, and Energy Smart, how do we scale that up so every county in the state can tape the benefits of that kind of work.”

Reporter: Outside of collaborations, the conference touched on related topics, like renewable energy. Speakers praised statewide increases in renewable energy requirements…. especially one that applies to rural electric coops. The contentious measure cropped up in this month’s election, when voters said it was one reason why some counties voted to secede from the state. That wasn’t mentioned during the loud applause for the measure at the Carbondale conference. State Senator Gail Schwartz urged attendees to take some personal time to think about another major issue. She pointed to a handout about the Colorado Water Plan.

Gail Schwartz: “That’s a conversation for another day. But that’s probably the most important conversation I think that’s going on in the state of Colorado.”

Reporter: The state is hammering out a unique approach to make sure residents have enough water in the coming decades… especially in drier, well-populated cities along the Front Range. That plan will be done by the end of next year.