‘Energy Action Plan’ being studied across Summit County | SkyHiNews.com

‘Energy Action Plan’ being studied across Summit County

Summit Daily file photoSummit County towns like Frisco, which installed solar lighting at the marina last year, are already doing things on the energy efficiency front. The proposed Energy Action Plan would help coordinate such efforts around the county.

Feedback gathered from Summit County’s municipalities is causing changes – some small, some substantial – in a proposed plan to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy production while boosting the local economy.

The initiative, funded in several counties by the Governor’s Energy Office and run locally through High Country Conservation Center, is known as the Energy Action Plan. It’s meant to create a plan for the entire county that’s suitable to each municipality. The plan would start in the public sector and ideally move into the private sector, such as the ski resorts, as time goes on.

Though community energy coordinator Lynne Westerfield said she still needs to visit the Breckenridge Town Council and the Summit County Board of County Commissioners, she is already anticipating several major changes to the existing draft of the plan – largely because of a comprehensive discussion with Silverthorne Town Council members in late 2010.

“Overall, the reaction is positive,” Westerfield said, adding that Silverthorne has set a precedent of being vocal in sustainability discussions.

“The council is independent-minded and we knew they’d take a close look at what we’re doing,” Westerfield said.

That’s not to say the town isn’t environmentally minded. They have been working to implement measures from the energy audit, such as recently installing lighting retrofits, including energy-efficient lighting and automatic controls, at the Silverthorne Town Hall and the Silverthorne Recreation Center.

In July, they also formed the Silverthorne Environmental Leadership Team, which is a group of representatives from several of the town departments tasked with identifying existing sustainable practices as well as developing goals and strategies to build on those practices. Frisco and Breckenridge already have similar organizations in place.

“Silverthorne had the most constructive input by far,” Westerfield said. “The Silverthorne meeting was a great conversation to have.”

One major change that’s happening comes from a question of feasibility posed by Silverthorne council member Bruce Butler. The plan’s original goal was for the county to have 30 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. Butler wanted to see specific methods, with proposed costs and funding streams, before he signed his support.

“It’s a solid goal,” Westerfield said, “but it’s an inspirational goal. Maybe it’s not as feasible as we originally thought.”

She added that all of the action items would have the full support of her grant-writing abilities and other High Country Conservation Center resources to design the process and find funding for it – much has already come from the Governor’s Energy Office and is leveraged with local contributions. And funding may not be necessary for many measures, Westerfield said, because the goal is to tweak the system slightly, not create new systems.

Nonetheless, the renewable energy measure is to be rewritten more generically to say that the county will increase its renewable energy consumption.

“Each town will set a reasonable goal for their public buildings and lead by example,” Westerfield said.

But Silverthorne isn’t the only town questioning certain aspects of the plan.

A universally disliked action item is the redistricting clause for waste haulers to reduce heavy traffic on the streets. It’s meant to improve efficiency in the waste removal system, but council members across the board have questioned how such measures would interfere with private business.

“It’s not going to work if there’s no support, so we took it out,” Westerfield said, adding that something may be left in to encourage companies or users to reduce inefficiencies through other methods.

Another point of contention for some municipalities is mandating disclosure of a building’s energy information upon sale or lease of the property. Westerfield said she’s taking the mandate language out and is researching successful voluntary disclosure programs that could still achieve similar results.

Because the plan is meant to “catalyze local action while providing countywide guidance and pointing to key collaborative initiatives,” Westerfield is making changes so the plan is more universally acceptable. But she still contends there must be a faith element – that lofty goals are sometimes necessary to create dramatic change.

Several of the goals are already underway, Westerfield said, whether it’s through existing sustainability programs in Frisco and Breckenridge or through noble council efforts in Silverthorne and Dillon.

The next steps are to finish synthesizing feedback into a finalized version of the plan and then start implementing the proposed actions by writing timelines, identifying costs and resources and finding funding if it’s necessary.

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