Energy efficient light bulbs, low-flow water fixtures and how best to clean refrigerator condenser coils aren’t the most engrossing topics for discussion.
“It’s definitely not glamorous,” acknowledged Cody Jensen, energy program manager for the High County Conservation Center in Frisco, “but it’s super important. That’s the biggest challenge I think we have as energy people, just getting people engaged. There’s definitely a little disinterest.”
It’s this point of view from many local business owners that resulted in a lightly attended commercial energy efficiency workshop on Thursday morning, June 23, at the community center in Breckenridge. The free event, hosted by the Conservation Center, better known as HC3, and Xcel Energy was intended to help Summit County enterprises save a little bit toward their bottom lines while also supporting the environment.
“If a business doesn’t feel like its energy bills are exorbitant,” said Jess Hoover, HC3 program manager, “it might not feel impelled to reduce its usage, even though it could have an impact. You can afford it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to minimize your usage.”
But to combat some of this possible contentedness, Xcel and HC3 have teamed on the former’s Partners In Energy community program. The goal is to inform businesses of all sizes about rebate initiatives that could be conserving vital resources and saving vendors money.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Why would you pay people for your customer sales reps to sell less of your product?’” explained Xcel’s John Schneider at Thursday morning’s meeting. “The reason is that we’re required by the Public Utilities Commission to have these programs in place. It’s also the right thing to do from an environmental standpoint, and it allows us to build less power plants.”
Where the disconnect often occurs, say the experts, is in the dispersal of consistent and accurate details to help people make more informed energy decisions for their homes and their companies. And unless something drastic changes with costs, advancements in the industry or specific components, people simply stop paying attention.
“They just get complacent,” said Jensen. “But what I don’t think they realize is technology … is changing so rapidly. They just don’t know that things are getting better, getter cheaper. That’s what so much of this is about — just conveying the message and getting people to understand what exists.”
As part of those continued efforts, HC3 and Xcel are hosting the county’s first-ever Summer Energy Fair on Friday, June 24, at the Frisco Transit Center. There, Summit residents can show between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to receive up to 20 LED light bulbs per household, as well as learn about other ways to save on utility bills. A total of 5,000 bulbs will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.
HC3’s larger goals through the Partners In Energy program is to help the local community reach goals of tripling the level of energy savings by the end of 2017. That, and assisting the county meet its 2011 Energy Action Plan objective of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2020 after previously losing course on that aim a bit the last handful of seasons.
“We have a really concerted, two-year effort to get us back on track to meeting the goals that were established in the initial plan,” said Hoover. “When we think about achieving these energy reductions, we love the participation of the small stores, but we need everyone in the Summit County community to get involved. We need grocery to get involved, we need resorts, we need multifamily property to get involved.”
While 15 percent over decades-long period may not sound like much, especially with how quickly new efficiencies evolve, what’s slightly deceptive is that reduction is paired with the population growth Summit County is currently experiencing. The idea of those action plan goals is to keep them at an achievable level, which would help the community even reverse some of the negative environmental impacts that it had previously embarked upon.
These conservation leaders emphasized the fact that whether full-time resident, second-home owner, annual visitor or even first-time guest, everyone plays a role in maintaining the beautiful scenery we all come to enjoy in the mountains.
“We have such a tourist draw to come here and see this,” said Hoover, “and yet, it can present a big environmental impact. So we want to be seen as environmentally forward-thinking, as stewards of the environment to set an example for our community and for people that come here — that this is something that’s important us, and we want it to be important to you, too.”
“We’re so focused on the environment,” added Jensen, “our industries here are so reliant on it that it needs to be a focus. If we’re not a leader, then what kind of community should be?”