Climate Action Collaborative’s 2021 impact report shows momentum on climate goals
The report shows a steady rise in clean energy infrastructure, most notably in building electrification and electric vehicle support
Earlier this month, the Climate Action Collaborative published its 2021 Climate Impact Report, which highlights the actions that the group accomplished in the last year to bring Eagle County closer to its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.
The report is divided into five main categories that correspond with the different working groups in the collaborative: buildings, transportation, energy supply, materials management and water and natural climate solutions.
Electrifying buildings and managing energy consumption in homes and businesses is a top priority for the collaborative.
According to Eagle County’s most recent annual energy report, which includes statistics from 2014-2020, the combined emissions from electrical and natural gas use made up 51% of the county’s total emissions in 2020. Moving buildings to all-electric appliances, weatherizing them to ensure energy efficiency and installing solar panels are some of the main initiatives for reducing these building-associated emissions.
The 2021 Climate Impact Report shows that there was an 18.2% increase in all-electric residential homes in Eagle County in 2021, bringing the total from 7,308 to 8,638, and a 7.5% increase in all-electric commercial buildings for a total of 658. Holy Cross Energy and Energy Smart Colorado awarded 808 rebates to help ease the cost of many of these beneficial electrification projects, and Energy Smart Colorado completed 153 home energy assessments to identify opportunities for efficiency improvement.
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The electricity running through these homes is also cleaner than ever, with Holy Cross Energy now supplying 52% of its electrical grid with renewable energy, up 8% from 2020. Holy Cross Energy is pursuing an internal sustainability goal to fuel its grid with 100% renewable sources by 2030, and the energy co-op is now more than halfway to achieving that goal.
Consumers are also engaging in more clean energy programs than ever before. 1,541 customers participated in Holy Cross Energy’s PuRE program in 2021, which allows people to pay a premium to ensure that they are only using energy powered by wind, water or solar. This represents a 5.04% increase since 2020 and a total usage rate of just under 4% of all customers.
Ground transportation made up 37% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. To address this, the collaborative is focusing on increasing the availability of electrical vehicle infrastructure in Eagle County to ensure that it can support a large-scale transition away from gas-powered vehicles.
In 2021 alone, a total of 164 EV chargers were installed around Eagle County. 123 are Level 2 chargers, a 412% increase from 2020, which charge at a rate of 12-80 miles an hour and can top a battery off in four hours. Forty-one are Level 3 chargers, a 355% increase from 2020, that charge at a rate of 75-1,200 miles per hour and can fill a battery in as little as 30 minutes.
The rising availability of chargers is being met with an increase in electrical vehicles on the road, with 417 new light-duty electrical vehicles registered in Eagle County in 2021, a 27.5% increase in one year.
The final category that the impact report tracks are waste materials management, which shows that composting is up in the valley with an 11% increase in organic waste diverted from the landfill.
The impact report does not include statistics from 2022, but it does list actions that the collaborative has begun in the past year in the hopes of boosting impact stats.
One large area of opportunity is advocating for compliance with the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code, which would ensure that new buildings are designed in the most energy-efficient way possible.
A 2019 state law established the first minimum building energy code in Colorado, requiring local jurisdictions to adopt one of the three most recent versions of the IECC in their building codes. The Climate Action Collaborative is encouraging municipalities to adopt the standards of the latest IECC to “make the built environment as sustainable and efficient as possible.”
The building working team also started progress on a comprehensive building benchmarking program, which would incentivize all buildings to report their energy consumption patterns. Benchmarking compares energy use rates at similar facilities and has been proven to help high consumption buildings identify necessary adjustments to improve energy efficiency.
There were 55 buildings benchmarked in Eagle County as of 2021 and the more structures that are involved, the more effective the program becomes.
The establishment of a Regional Transportation Authority, a ballot measure that passed in all municipalities but Gypsum during the midterm elections, is a significant step forward in the Climate Action Collaborative’s transportation goals, and encouraging public transit use will be a priority for the transportation working group in 2023.
The group also created an Electric Vehicle Task Force in 2022, which will be publishing an official EV Infrastructure Plan early next year to guide future efforts.
The water and natural climate solutions working group was created in 2021, and therefore has no metrics associated with it in the 2021 Climate Impact Report, but priorities in 2022 included establishing water-wise landscaping standards and conducting a carbon sequestration inventory to calculate a baseline for how our surrounding forest and environment acts as a sponge for carbon emissions.
To access the full report of 2021 results and priorities, visit WalkingMountains.org and find the report in the Climate Action Collaborative tab under “initiatives.”