Yampa Valley Sustainability Council gives energy efficiency presentation to county commissioners

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— The Yampa Valley Sustainability Council has been visiting government bodies and groups with a presentation about how energy efficiency can translate to economic gains.

On Tuesday, it was the Routt County Board of Commissioners’ turn to hear Sam Jones “connect the dots.”

Jones, who owns All Season Financial Advisors, said a recent report shows the primary concern of most people is the rising cost of living, and energy use is a big piece of that.

Colorado is among the top five states in a clean energy index, Jones said, but Steamboat is one of the few ski towns in the state without a formal energy plan that concentrates on energy use and reduction, which is the type of plan often required for federal grants.

Even without a formal plan, the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County have worked toward energy efficiency goals and have seen savings from their efforts, but residential power use for Routt County climbed from 2009 to 2011 and barely leveled off in 2012, Jones said. He and Diane Johnson, general manager of Yampa Valley Electric Association, said that was because of increased plug load, which is from devices such as cellphones, computers and TVs that are plugged in and often forgotten about.

Jones used an economic multiplier to model how reductions in energy usage get put back into the local economy through increased discretionary income and using local vendors.

The ways to promote these reductions, according to James, can involve incentives and policy.

On the incentives side, the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council is working to institute a rebate program called STEP that was approved by Steamboat Springs City Council last month.

“It’s a grant program that delivers money out to the public for people who want to embark on energy efficiency projects,” Jones said.

The trend toward tiered pricing for energy and the increasing amount of tools to measure energy use are two examples of ways the market can drive energy efficiency, according to Jones.

Lastly, policy can require certain benchmarks or disclosure to realize the overall energy reductions governments want to see.

Two policy examples Jones gave are requiring a home to have an energy efficiency rating akin to a car’s miles per gallon rating when being sold and making landlords accountable for the utilities on the properties they rent.

Requiring a home to have a stated energy rating would better allow buyers to know what they’re in for, Jones said, and incentivize sellers to make improvements before listing their homes. Landlords being responsible for utility costs would encourage them to make a property more efficient whereas a tenant seldom is motivated or able to make such upgrades.

Neither policy is without tradeoffs, but these are items that have been tested and results can be observed, Jones said.

“We’re not out paving the way,” he said. “We’re not taking the arrows on this.”

The issue of energy reduction is a large one that will take time to unpack, Jones said, but the idea is to move to create a higher standard.

“It definitely would behoove all of us to move in this directions just for the economics of it,” he said.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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