Boulder’s commercial and industrial sector produces 41 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions, and city officials hope that requiring businesses to rate and report their own energy performance and make certain upgrades can put a dent in those emissions.
This summer, the Boulder City Council will consider an ordinance that would make rating and public reporting of energy performance mandatory. Depending on what upgrades are required along with that reporting, the initiative could reduce the community’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 2 to 9 percent, Kendra Tupper, the city’s energy services manager and lead strategist, told the City Council at a study session Tuesday night.
Before Tupper’s presentation, Heather Bailey, executive director of energy strategy and electric utility development, told the council that energy efficiency measures alone will never achieve the city’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
That’s why the city is continuing to pursue the creation of a municipal energy utility, despite several legal setbacks. The city hopes to hear Xcel Energy’s response soon to a request for a power purchase proposal that would allow the city to slowly wean itself off Xcel’s electricity. If Xcel does not respond to a targeted request for proposals by early next week, the city will issue a broader request for proposals to start lining up power purchase proposals.
Bailey said the city has also had 20 firms respond to a search for organizations that could manage daily operations of a municipal electric utility, including five national firms with the expertise to handle every aspect of the utility.
“I think we’re in really good shape,” she said.
The city is moving forward on the logistics for the utility even though it still needs to file its plans with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission after a Boulder District Court judge threw out its condemnation case against Xcel Energy and told the city to get PUC approval first.
Bailey also outlined several new initiatives the city is undertaking regardless of whether municipalization is ultimately successful, as well as policy changes at the state level that would allow the city to meet its carbon goals without forming its own utility.
The city’s Energy Future office is working on targeted solar outreach that would identify rooftops with high solar potential that don’t yet have panels; a “nanogrid” pilot that would develop energy “islands” to protect important infrastructure, such as water treatment plants, in emergencies; and a carbon offset fund that would allow marijuana businesses to fund local projects instead of buying Windsource to offset their energy use.
The city has also applied for grants from the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, and two projects are under consideration: a “utility of the future” demonstration project; and a project to develop strategies to convert natural gas and fuel oil to solar thermal and biofuel.
Boulder has also identified policy changes that would allow for faster carbon reductions. Those include “community choice aggregation,” which would allow Boulder to buy greener power from suppliers besides Xcel; removing the cap on local solar generation and allowing local sharing of excess energy produced with solar; time-of-use electric rates to encourage behavior changes by consumers; green electric resource planning that would require utilities to consider carbon and water when they go out to bid; and a state carbon tax.
“People say, ‘Why don’t you do this or that?'” Bailey said. “Well, there is a lot we cannot do without changes to the basic regulatory structure, and if we had those changes, we might not have to municipalize.”
One of the things the city can do is require more energy efficiency from businesses.
The city has had its Energy Smart energy advisers program, which helps homeowners and businesses identify energy savings and find rebates, for years. Tupper estimated that requiring businesses to rate their energy performance and make that information publicly available, along with requiring certain improvements in lighting and HVAC systems, would double the emissions reductions expected from the voluntary Energy Smart program by 2030.
Councilman George Karakehian asked if the city wanted to shame businesses into making energy efficiency investments.
Tupper responded that the main idea is to create a market for energy efficiency, with tenants using that as one factor in leasing decisions. However, “peer pressure” is one of the goals.
The ordinance would apply to private sector commercial and industrial buildings greater than 20,000 square feet, city-owned buildings greater than 5,000 square feet and buildings greater than 10,000 square feet that are built since energy codes were updated in January 2014.
The ordinance would be phased in starting in 2016 with the largest buildings, and with energy efficiency upgrades not required until 2019 or later.
The city would provide energy advisers and various incentives and rebates for property owners, but owners would have to pay for the energy assessment at an estimated cost of 12 to 25 cents per square foot. The required upgrades should pay for themselves within three to four years, Tupper said.
This article was written by Erica Meltzer from Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.