Smart Energy Living - May 2011

Communities Pay as They Go for Energy Improvements:
Costs can be bundled and paid off from reduced bills

By: Rebecca Cantwell

     Even when we know there are ways our homes could be made more energy efficient to save on utility bills, it's often hard to set aside the upfront funds to make improvements that might take years to pay off.

     Public agencies face the same dilemma. In this time of strapped budgets for school districts, cities and counties, an increasingly popular way around this conundrum is called Energy Performance Contracting. It's a way of working with a professional engineering company to identify the most cost-effective improvements, and then using savings in energy bills to cover most or all of the cost. Public and private agencies are increasingly signing up to get buildings fixed up using this option.

     In Colorado, the Governor's Energy Office has encouraged local governments, school districts and other public agencies to sign Energy Performance Contracts and has hired a consultant to serve as their advisor.

     Smaller units of government sometimes have a hard time identifying enough savings to make the finances work out because their energy bills need to be big enough to provide leverage to pay for the upgrades. That's why joining together often makes sense.

Work begins in Gilpin County

Gilpin Sheriff Truck      Gilpin County and the towns of Black Hawk and Central City joined forces in the fall of 2010 to issue a Request for Proposals for an energy contracting company. The governments chose Ennovate Corporation from 10 applicants. Ennovate worked with the county and the two towns to identify the needs, walked through all the facilities, and performed a preliminary technical energy audit. Recently, the company met with officials to talk through the findings and the parties are finalizing decisions on what work makes the most sense.

Biomass wood Chips

     But for small communities, there is strength in numbers. While Gilpin County and Central City each have their own contract and will make their own decisions about what makes sense for them, the fact that they are all working with the same company should yield efficiencies. For example, suppliers may be able to offer better prices on some jobs if they can be done at the same time. Contractors who can do more than one relatively small jobs at once may also be able to do them for less.

For more information, visit RechargeColorado.