Eagle County puts $615K into energy programs run by Walking Mountains Science Center

Walking Mountains Science Center will run programs for Eagle County

Eagle County and Walking Mountains Science Center this week signed an agreement to use $615,000 in county funds for efficiency programs, including home evaluations through the Energy Smart Colorado program.
Walking Mountains Science Center/archive photo

More Eagle County residents will have access to energy-saving programs, thanks to a county agreement with Walking Mountains Science Center.

The agreement takes $615,500 from the county’s general fund. That money will pay for several initiatives run by Walking Mountains.

By the numbers

$615,500: Eagle County’s 2023 spending on various energy efficiency programs through Walking Mountains Science Center.

$472,500: Portion of the funding dedicated to Energy Smart Colorado programs.

$50,000: Portion of that funding dedicated to sustainable business initiatives.

50%: Maximum rebate through the Energy Smart program for efficiency improvements of $5,000 or less.

Roughly one-third of the funds will go to the Energy Smart program’s home assessments, rebates and outreach.

Those energy efficiency improvements will be aimed at owners of deed-restricted homes, as well as first responders and those in multi-family neighborhoods. Families earning up to 150% of the area median income will also be eligible.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, Eagle County Environmental Manager John Gitchell said that Energy Smart rebates cover up to 50% of project costs up to $5,000. But, he added, those rebates can be combined with utility company rebates as well as state and federal tax credits.

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Walking Mountains Energy Programs Director Nikki Maline said the income qualification point will be good for local families with children.

The efficiency projects focus on electrifying homes and transportation.

Commissioner Matt Scherr said officials with Holy Cross Energy, the county’s primary electricity provider, have told him the local electric grid can handle the increased demand. That demand will be met by a growing portfolio of renewable energy sources.

High-efficiency appliances can dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions. Gitchell said if a 2,000-square-foot home creates 20 metric tons of greenhouse gas emmissions per year, electrification can cut that number in half.

Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney asked if there’s enough trained workforce to do all the work that comes with rapid electrification. Gitchell noted the workforce is growing but remains a problem at the moment.

But, Scherr noted, even rapid electrification in the county won’t get the county to its 2030 goal of cutting greenhouse emissions by half from 2014 levels.    

At this point, there’s a long way to go to meet those goals. Gitchell noted that the county’s climate action goals appear to have stalled.

Gitchell noted that the county’s emissions are “about even” with 2014, “but we need big initiatives” to meet the 2030 goals.

Ground transportation remains the county’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Those emissions have grown by roughly 200,000 tons per year since 2014, to just less than 600,000 tons in 2021. After a sharp drop in 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, transportation emissions rebounded quickly the following year.

Natural gas emissions grew somewhat before 2020, but 2021 emissions were only slightly above the 2014 emissions of just less than 300,000 tons. That slight growth was also seen in emissions from aviation and the county landfill.

The big decline came in electricity. As Holy Cross continues to add more renewable energy to its portfolio, its emissions have dropped from about 550,000 tons in 2014 to just about 300,000 tons in 2021.

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