Greener Vail: Energy efficiency is just a vote away |

Greener Vail: Energy efficiency is just a vote away

Cassie Pence
Vail, CO COlorado

Whether you think the biggest problem facing the nation is the slumping economy or the environment and renewable energy, this November election you’ll have the rare opportunity to tackle both issues by voting yes on ballot measure 1A.

Ballot measure 1A seeks to establish an Energy Smart Local Improvement District in Eagle County in order to create a financing pool to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements within the county.

In other words, people who are interested in making energy efficient improvements to their home or business can finance money to do it through Eagle County. These Energy Smart Loans will have low rates with the payments spread over approximately 15 to 20 years, even if property changes ownership. Owners pay back the loan through their property taxes.

Many of you may be scratching your heads and thinking: Why is an Energy Smart Loan better than money loaned from a bank? Well, banks these days have tightened their purse strings. Even people with good credit scores are having a difficult time getting approved for loans. But the biggest advantage to the Energy Smart Loan is the repayment of the loan runs with the property.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to replace your home’s old windows and insulation so that your utility bills will decrease. Although you’ll see an immediate benefit on your monthly utility statement, the complete payback for these upgrades is going to take 10 to 15 years. It’s a good deal if you plan on staying in your home for 15 years. But if you sell the home before the 15 years is up, it’s not such a good financial deal for you.

The Energy Smart Loan, however, runs with the property, so when you sell your home, the buyer is made aware of the additional property tax assessment as well as the lower utility costs. Both parties benefit from the energy efficiency improvements. This scenario is not available through standard banking products because those loan obligations must be paid off at the time of sale.

Eagle County’s interest is two-fold. First, money devoted to projects like installing new windows, upgrading insulation, replacing inefficient heating systems and installing solar electric and solar hot water creates jobs in an industry that desperately needs a boost – construction. Second, if granted the authority by voters, the county will then be in the business of reducing energy consumption, which is an environmental benefit to the entire community.

Now pay attention, naysayers, because this part is important: The program is completely voluntary. Only homeowners who apply and whose projects are approved will see an increase in their property taxes.

One neighbor cannot be taxed in anyway to pay for the other neighbor’s Energy Smart loan or any fees related to the county financing that loan. Maybe I should repeat that. Citizens who voluntarily join the program are the only ones who pay for it. So if you have no interest in making energy efficient improvements to your home or installing renewable energy, voting yes to 1A just allows your neighbors that do have an interest an opportunity to access funds to do it.

In fact, voting yes on 1A just gives Eagle County the green light for inquiry into the program to make sure it’s financially viable. If the numbers don’t match up, if the program cannot pay for itself, if the county can’t get a competitive interest rate, then the county will not establish an Energy Smart Local Improvement District. Saying yes to 1A is a no risk vote.

Still not sure? Boulder County, as usual, already has a program in place just like the one 1A proposes.

During Boulder’s first go at its Energy Smart Improvement District, the county received 700 applications for projects and 440 were approved, which equals 440 building permits issued almost all at once – all that for a program that costs taxpayers nothing.

Think about the job creation and the boost in the local economy, not to mention that the jobs created are tied to renewable energy. Hooray. If it worked for Boulder, it’s bound to work for us. So this November, vote yes on 1A.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is crazy about living a greener life. She’s married to the superhero of green cleaning Captain Vacuum, AKA Tim Szurgot. Together they own Organic Housekeepers, a cleaning company that uses strictly organic, natural and nontoxic cleaning products. Contact her at

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