Aspen urged to invest in renewables to meet energy goals |

Aspen urged to invest in renewables to meet energy goals

ASPEN, Colorado ” Aspen Skiing Co. officials have concluded they must do something drastic and different to reach a goal of offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

The company’s latest sustainability report says they realize they must invest heavily in renewable energy projects ” like wind farms ” to back their talk on battling climate change.

The Skico has taken numerous small steps over the past decade to reduce its fossil fuel consumption and, thus, its carbon emissions. Those steps have only resulted in a small improvement, according to a letter from Skico President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Kaplan in the sustainability report released this week.

“If you look at the only metric that matters ” our carbon footprint ” we’re not moving as fast as we’d like, or as the planet needs us to,” Kaplan wrote. “In our case, our carbon footprint is only creeping downward, and that’s entirely because our utility provider is using more renewable power over time.

“We’re not alone,” Kaplan continued. “Most of the world is realizing just how hard it is to solve the climate challenge.”

Auden Schendler, Skico’s executive director of sustainability, said there are no regrets for the small steps the company has taken, like buying more efficient snowmobiles (see related story). And the company will continue to take those small steps to achieve its goal, he said.

Skico’s emissions goals

The Skico has two broad goals related to climate change. One goal is to reduce its energy consumption by 10 percent below 2000 levels by 2012, and 25 percent below the baseline by 2020.

The second goal is to offset the carbon emissions from its remaining energy consumption through “legitimate” steps such as using alternative energy exclusively.

It’s not enough anymore to settle on efficiency, Schendler said. Anything short of offsetting all carbon emissions is failure in the battle on climate change.

“It would be easy to do all those little things, call it your environmental program and look good,” Schendler said. But Skico has it sights set higher.

Schendler outlined three renewable energy projects the Skico is exploring.

Investment in wind farm

One possibility is teaming with Holy Cross Energy and the city of Aspen to commit to buying wind power from a provider in Nebraska, Schendler said. The provider would have a long-term commitment, 20 years or more, for wind power purchases. That would provide the incentive for it to invest in four additional wind turbines dedicated to meeting that demand.

The move makes business sense as well as environmental sense, Schendler said. The Skico would commit to pay a premium for the wind power, but over the life of the contract the rate would be reasonable and less risky than buying power at the evolving market rate.

“We know utility rates are going up so it’s a hedge against the future,” Schendler said.

In his letter in the Skico sustainability report, Kaplan said he has directly conveyed Skico’s commitment to renewable energy and its willingness to invest to Del Worley, the Holy Cross Energy CEO.

Another renewable energy project the Skico is exploring is placement of three wind turbines at the top of Snowmass Ski Area’s Big Burn. They could provide three-fourths of the Skico’s current energy consumption.

In addition, the company is studying if it can add micro-hydroelectric projects at Snowmass. One project is already producing power there.

Schendler said the projects aren’t mutually exclusive. If one advances, that doesn’t rule out the others.

“We’re going to have more power than we need and that’s perfect,” he said. “The community needs power. There’s no shortage of need for power.”

Opening the book for 10 years

The Skico’s environmental accomplishments, shortcomings and a thorough report on its energy consumption is displayed for all to see in its sustainability report. The company started the self assessment a decade ago, initially doing the examine every year, then every other year because of the effort necessary. An independent party audits the report.

The sustainability report provides, among other things, a good measure of progress in reducing carbon emissions.

“I think it’s cool we’ve done this for almost a decade,” Schendler said. “It’s not easy.”

The report said the Skico produced 28,321 tons of carbon emissions in 2006 and 27,847 tons the following year or a tiny reduction of 1.6 percent. It provides extensive details on how it arrived at the figures.

More impressive, Schendler said, is that the company has been able to reduce its carbon footprint since 2000 even though the company is growing. A graph in the report said Skico’s revenue has grown 36 percent since 2000.

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