Filling in a Resiliency Gap with Batteries

Keeping the Water On

The relentless rain battered the mountainous landscape around Boulder, dumping upward of 20 inches of rain in just a matter of days. Infrastructure was swamped, and the susceptible electric feeder to the city’s water treatment facility was taken out. If the water plant went fully offline, a community-wide evacuation was possible. Over the next five days, crews ran ATVs through the washed-out canyon to ensure the backup generators stayed online to keep clean water pumping through the pipes. They succeeded in keeping the facility operational, but it was a dangerously close call.

Boulder did not anticipate the 2013 floods, despite ongoing flood mitigation efforts dating back to the 1960s as one of the most susceptible communities in the state. The historic models officials were using when the disaster hit did not predict the weather pattern changes from climate change. This blindspot missed the vulnerabilities around the cascading impact the various secondary and tertiary channels could have. It was those channels which led to the greatest loss of life and property, islanding communities and leading to the dramatic evacuation of hundreds in the area-- many by helicopter.

Since 2013, the country has seen similar scenes of extreme scenarios playing out, most notably in the form of devastating hurricanes. The appreciation of infrastructure resilience in the face of uncertainty from a changing climate has been gaining traction during this time. Stories have gone viral of backup battery systems and electric vehicles able to keep cell phones and homes powered, to medical facilities remaining operational due to the rapid deployment of solar arrays in parking lots. The increasing availability and affordability of batteries are playing a key role for not just staying online during a crisis, but also running electric systems more efficiently long after recovery is complete.

The Success Stories of the Battery Market

New battery success stories seem to rocket across the news cycles every month. These stories have ranged from highlighting industry innovations, plummeting costs resulting in explosive growth, and record-breaking installations sizes. A prime example of the nexus of these stories is the 100 MW / 129 MWh Hornsdale Power Reserve in southern Australia, currently the largest utility-scale battery in the world. The Tesla-supported facility demonstrated profitability by making around $1 million (AUD) within days of being operational. Within months, the system grabbed a 55% share of the frequency and ancillary services market, reducing prices by 90% and directly preventing blackouts.

Tesla Energy batteries,

Tesla Energy batteries,

Colorado has proven itself as an emerging leader in the growing worldwide battery market. This month United Power’s 4 MW / 16 MWh grid-support battery, also a Tesla facility, will be coming online east of Longmont with an anticipated annual savings of $1 million. As part of the Colorado Energy Plan, Xcel Energy has been approved by the Public Utilities Commission to pursue three batteries totaling 275 MW. With grid efficiencies and growing capacity to store variable renewable energy sources from batteries, Colorado is locking-in consumer cost savings while being set to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s worth acknowledging the central role Tesla and Panasonic have taken in the deployment of energy storage solutions from the utility to consumer scale. The expanding operations of their Gigafactories promises to continue to provide market saturation both in the electric grid and transportation sector. The Model 3’s rapid ascent into the top vehicles sold this quarter and the anticipated release of the Tesla Semi and pickup truck will continue to dramatically shape the energy-transportation nexus into the foreseeable future.

Boulder’s Distributed, Mobile Solution

From the aftermath of the 2013 floods, Boulder has taken an aggressive approach in exploring not only what a resilient community looks like, but also how to deploy it. Critical facilities like the water treatment plant and community centers such as schools and shelters (already strategically-located) can host on-site renewable energy production and storage infrastructure serving as resiliency hubs. One of the more innovative strategies Boulder is exploring for these hubs involves incorporating mobile energy sources.

Colorado National Guard Flood Response, Boulder 2013, Flickr

Colorado National Guard Flood Response, Boulder 2013, Flickr

Boulder’s first Resiliency Hub launched in 2016 on 63rd Street with Via Mobility Services, an access-focused transportation nonprofit. The facility is designed to eventually operate as an independent renewable energy microgrid able to charge and manage a fleet of electric buses. The first electric bus of the fleet was just completed and is expected to start servicing Boulder’s HOP line in the coming weeks.

These electric buses can not only move people during emergency situations without being dependent on susceptible fossil fuel supplies, but also can serve as a deployable microgrid for mission-critical infrastructure. A series of buses can be flexibly stacked to power an emergency operations center, mobile communications tower, or augment an overloaded resilience hub. If needed, the electric buses could even keep the water flowing at the water treatment plant.

There is little doubt battery storage will be playing a vital role in the deployment of resiliency strategies from the growing applications of mobility and commerce, enhancing electric grid operations, and keeping homes, businesses, and vital infrastructure powered in emergencies. Communities like Boulder who understand the implications of preparedness (or lack of it) are leading the way to innovate and explore solutions, becoming all the more resilient in the process and demonstrating pathways for other communities to follow.

The Climate Training Experience: Fostering a Culture of Resilience in Durango

By Imogen Ainsworth

Exposed rocks in the Animas River and on mountain slopes where one would normally expect to see snow drifts and hardy adventurers. A summer spent watching flames, smoke plumes and eerie orange sunsets. A collective sigh of relief for containment drowned out by the arrival of monsoon rains. The moisture we craved bringing more damage than the flames that came before as mud and debris washed off the burn scar and into the valley.

Though the 416 fire that began on June 1st, ten miles north of Durango, was officially declared ‘out’ on November 30th, its impact on the landscape, ecosystems and community will be felt for years to come.

This may be a familiar tale to many compact members as drought persists across much of Colorado, the area of land burned each year grows, and development in the state’s 6.6 million-acre wildland-urban interface continues.

However, this summer also created an opportunity for open conversation and engagement about climate, vulnerability and resilience. After months of extreme weather, damaged property and economic losses, many were left wondering whether Durango could survive two, three, four ‘2018s’ in a row and whether this could be the ‘new normal’.

On October 22nd, a group of 29 City of Durango employees and 4 representatives from La Plata County gathered for a workshop on climate change and resilience. Funded through the National League of Cities Leadership in Community Resilience program, the workshop supplemented training resources available through Durango’s Compact of Colorado Communities membership. Association of Climate Change Officers Executive Director, Dan Kreeger, facilitated the workshop with support from state climate experts - Tarryn Finnessey (CWCB), Brad Udall (CSU) and David Herring (NOAA Climate Program Office).

The aim of the half-day workshop was to foster an organization-wide understanding of climate change and what it means for our city.

Meaningful action on climate change and resilience will not happen in isolation as a result of the city’s sustainability programs. Rather, action relies on the embeddedness of shared understanding and core concepts in decision making across the organization. With almost every department in the City represented - including the City Manager and Directors or high-level staff from Community Development, the Police Department, Parks & Recreation, City Operations, Utilities, the City Clerk’s Office, HR, IT, Finance, Legal, and the Public Information Office – this workshop was the first step to getting us there.

A follow-up workshop to be held on December 12th will equip staff with methods and solution-based planning exercises that can be used to assess the vulnerability of our operations to climate change and build organizational resilience. The same evening, a public event will expand the resilience conversation to include regional stakeholders and community members.

As with the 416 fire, the full impact of these workshops will only become clear over time. However, I have already heard anecdotal results from staff, such as the City’s Water Treatment Plant Superintendent who worked with his team to save energy through process modifications following the event; or Library staff who are talking about how to better serve the community as a haven for those forced inside by evacuation, poor air quality, or extreme heat. Outcomes from the December 12th workshops will inform an update to the City’s Sustainability Action Plan in 2019.

While we have learned not to expect anything as predictable or benign as a ‘new normal’, by taking into consideration climate projections for our region, and by working across departments and jurisdictions, we will be able to build resilience and adaptive capacity with which to face an uncertain future.

Colorado's Momentum for Clean Energy Grows with Flurry of Announcements

The holiday season is in full swing in Colorado with the gift of clean energy. The renewable energy future is looking bright thanks to new municipal and corporate commitments, growing voices asking for accountability, and the establishment of a new statewide clean energy fund all announced within the first week of December. Here’s our breakdown of what you need to know:

Colorado wind energy,

Colorado wind energy,

Over a dozen Coloradan communities have now committed to 100% renewable electricity, with the newest additions of Estes Park on December 6th and Fort Collins in October. The total committed communities represent over 1.3 million people across Colorado, nearly a fourth of the state’s population, and are part of a growing list of 100 across the country. On the same night, Platte River Power Authority announced they would go carbon-free by 2030. Their service area includes Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont, and Loveland. Fort Collins also passed their Building Energy and Water Scoring Program on December 7th, underlining the importance of reducing demand through benchmarking and transparency in lockstep with the energy transition.

Just days before PRPA’s announcement, Xcel Energy declared they will commit to a 100% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 across their eight state service territory, a first of any major US utility. They also included a progress goal of 80% reduction by 2030. The decision and timing of it is likely a response in-part to Governor-Elect Polis’ commitment to bring Colorado to 100% renewable energy by 2040, and the Democratic takeover of the Colorado House and Senate.

As the momentum for renewable energy is fueled by new political and economic realities, members of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association are holding the electric service provider accountable. Delta Montrose Electric Association “strongly reaffirmed its intent to exit” Tri-State’s membership, their filing with the Colorado PUC emphasized the electricity wholesale provider’s close ties to coal and high energy rates. United Power, Tri-State’s largest member, is seeking a more diplomatic pathway to change the bylaws to allow for more local renewable energy generation. Meanwhile, other members like La Plata Electric Association continue to investigate their options.

Governor Hickenlooper,

Governor Hickenlooper,

Taking us home on this whirlwind of news is the launch of the Colorado Clean Energy Fund as part of the Colorado Climate Plan. Governor Hickenlooper made the announcement of the Fund on December 8th at the US Climate Action Center in Katowice, Poland. In a statement (video link), Governor Hickenlooper said “Access to financing capital for clean energy projects will make our state an even bigger draw for businesses looking to move and invest here.” The Fund will bring the “green bank” model to Colorado, building on the success of similar programs in New York and Connecticut, and open new opportunities of financing for clean energy in the state.

Energy Innovations Summit

Electric cooperative officials discuss cheap renewable energy and an “eroding monopoly”

Article used with permission from Joe Smyth.

At the 2018 Colorado Rural Electric Association Energy Innovations Summit this week in Denver, electric utility industry officials discussed changes in energy technologies and utility business models, such as increasing customer choices and declining costs of distributed renewable energy. But while there was broad agreement about the opportunities provided by cheaper renewable energy, there were disagreements about the scope and pace of business model changes underway in the industry - and the implications of those changes for the hundreds of electric cooperative directors and staff attending the conference.

Steve Collier, Director of Smart Grid Strategies at Milsoft Utility Solutions, delivered a presentation titled “Revolutionary Change in the Electric Industry: Threats and Opportunities,” which focused on the implications for electric cooperatives of what he described as an “eroding monopoly.” Collier explained:

What choices do customers have other than buying from you, all that that they have ever bought? Do they have choices? Yeah they have choices. Primarily distributed energy resources. But we’re not just talking about rooftop solar, we’re talking about a whole variety of options that they have to reduce the amount of electricity that they buy from you.

Collier pointed to energy management system providers like EnerNOC (now Enel X), which offer businesses a variety of products and services to reduce their electricity costs, as the company’s website explains:

Unlike other major operational costs that are driven by a simple price-times-quantity formula, energy spend is driven by how you buy energy (price), how much you use (quantity), and when you use it (time). Without visibility into or control of these cost drivers, businesses can't manage energy like other major line items—hurting overall business productivity and profitability.  Enel X works with large energy users to develop tailored plans to reduce their biggest energy-related cost drivers, as well as to leverage their facilities’ energy data to take control of operational, maintenance, and capital expense.

While those energy management services are available now mostly to large electricity consumers like commercial and industrial customers, Collier said that similar services will become increasingly available to residential customers - whether or not they are offered by electric cooperatives.

Tri-State has received “unbelievably aggressive” bids for renewable energy projects

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association CEO Mike McInnes provided a different message to conference attendees, during a morning session titled “Navigating Turbulent Waters: Colorado Utility Leaders Discuss an Industry in Transition.” McInnes downplayed the scale of changes in the electric utility industry, and instead focused on uncertainties and communications challenges:

I don’t find really the energy business as turbulent as it is trying to explain what it is. Our business is so complex and people don’t want to talk complexity, they want a yes or no, or a black or white. And you can say just about anything you want to say, but it comes with a host of caveats, things that you have to explain about it, and so it’s always challenging for me to speak in any kind of clarity. But I am pleased with the direction that the Tri-State board and our members have gotten us.

During that session, the top executives of Xcel Energy Colorado and Platte River Power Authority also discussed how they are responding to growing calls for 100% renewable energy from Colorado communities like Fort Collins and Denver, as well as gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis.

Screen Shot 2018-11-13 at 4.56.38 PM.png


CREA kicks off its annual Energy Innovations Summit with a panel of utility leaders: Kent Singer, CREA executive director; Jason Frisbie, CEO of Platte River Power Authority; Alice Jackson, president of @XcelEnergyCO; Mike McInnis, @TriStateGT. #CREASummit

7:54 AM - Oct 29, 2018

McInnes noted that Tri-State has moved to benefit from the declining costs of renewable energy, and said that “as these tax credits are trailing off, developers are getting unbelievably aggressive in their pricing. And so the last time we’ve gone out, we’ve been able to justify adding renewables simply because of the economies of that.”

McInnes did not provide further details about the types or prices of renewable energy bids that Tri-State has received, but the power supplier said in August that it is "currently soliciting for additional renewable energy supply, and has received more than 100 proposals totaling over 10,000 megawatts."

In January 2018, Xcel Energy filed a report with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that showed the median prices of hundreds of new wind and solar power proposals. Those renewable energy bids attracted national attention, because they indicated that new wind and solar power in Colorado is now cheaper than existing coal plants. The Colorado PUC approved the Colorado Energy Plan in August, green lighting Xcel’s plan to shut down two units at the Comanche coal plant in Pueblo Colorado and replace that power with a mix of new wind, solar, and battery storage projects and existing natural gas plants.

Electric cooperatives urged to plan for increased competition

But cheap renewable energy is only part of the broader shifts underway in the electric utility industry, according to Collier, who described the changes as a decline in electric utilities’ control of the industry:

All of a sudden, instead of everything happening in our industry on our side of the meter - we build the generation, we build the transmission, we build the distribution, we’re in control of the game - all of a sudden, things are happening on the customer’s side of the meter. And it could happen without us knowing it, other than seeing the decline in load, without seeing it and knowing that it’s happening.

Steve Collier’s presentation noted: “Your customers did not sign the long term all-requirements wholesale power purchase agreement!”

Collier also noted that those changes are being driven by companies outside of the utility sector, including major technology companies like Amazon that already have relationships with many residential electricity consumers.

Business Insider reported last month that Amazon is expanding its focus on smart home services, including as a way to reduce electric power bills:

The e-commerce and tech giant has partnered with clean energy startup Arcadia Power to sell "home efficiency bundles." The bundles will include smart devices to upgrade customers' homes to be more efficient, including smart thermostats, smart outlets, and smart LED light bulbs.

Arcadia Power says the service is currently available in San Diego, San Francisco, Phoenix, San Jose, Miami, Charlotte, Raleigh, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and “will be expanding to additional cities in 2019.”

Other major technology companies have also already begun to enter the electricity sector, which Collier argued should prompt strategic planning and more conversations among electric cooperative officials:

You don’t think Google has an energy strategy? Who owns Nest? You think they don’t know about the EnerNOC model? Apple has a wholesale power trading license. And they are already dealing with your customers. They’re already credible. And all of a sudden, if they start offering energy either because of carbon, or just because of price, or convenience or reliability, we’re going to be in trouble. What do you do? Well you might want to have a conversation with Amazon, or Google, or Apple, or with your G&T, or with each other, about strategies for dealing with this in the future.

Read the whole story and learn more at

Manitou Springs: Hazard Planning Pays Off

The Wakeup Call

In the fall of 2013, an atmospheric river of precipitation stretched from the Gulf of California to Colorado, depositing tropic moisture in dramatic fashion. A year’s worth of rainfall fell within days in some areas. The flooding that ensued resulted in the loss of 10 lives, dramatic evacuation of 18,000, and over $3.9 billion in damages -- $2.1 of which was due to impaired or destroyed infrastructure. What became known as the 2013 Front Range Floods served as a wakeup call for many communities, underlying the importance of resiliency planning and helped focused federal, state and local resources around preparedness. In Manitou Springs, the burn scar from the year prior’s Waldo Canyon Fire compounded the impact of the weather system.

“The series of flooding events over the course of the summer of 2013 was a real impetus to look at hazard mitigation in a more organized fashion,” said Karen Berchtold, Manitou Springs’ Senior Planner for Long-range Planning and Sustainability. “Community leaders and DOLA (Department of Local Affairs) were talking about city comprehensive planning, how all of these issues are interrelated, and ways to make sure we don’t increase our hazard risk.”

Resilience Planning and Tools

From 2014 through 2017, those conversations led to the integration of a Hazard Mitigation Plan as a part of Manitou Springs’ Comprehensive Plan. This work includes a Flood Control Master Plan, a Community Wildfire Protection Plan which is still underway, and the development of educational materials on geological, fire and flood hazards. The process was about “putting together some of the big picture pieces of how to move forward with multi-hazard scenario planning,” said Berchtold.

To assist with the effort, Manitou took advantage of participating in the federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program funded pilot with DOLA to “figure out how they could create a framework and develop tools for communities to address hazards on their own, rather than directly supporting impacted communities.” The program was led by a steering committee and was tested across several communities. The Planning for Hazards guide is now available online and has a host of land-use tools to identify various hazards.

Impacts from July’s Flood

On July 23rd of this year, Manitou Springs experienced a sudden, heavy rainstorm which turned roadways into rivers. The event resulted in $1.5 million in damages, but it could have been much worse. Thanks to the resiliency planning, Manitou had prioritized projects to address highly vulnerable infrastructure including redesigning a drainage gulch and replacing a well water line where some sections were still made of wooden pipe. Thus, the story didn’t become about a vital access road washing out nor the loss of drinking water.

Manitou Springs:

Manitou Springs:

The flood event also was a learning opportunity for the community. Berchtold explained, “the flooding put into focus the need to develop better tools to address drainage in the development process, but also the need to move forward with guidance for homeowners and property owners.” Much of the runoff came from private properties, so in addition to having guidance for wildfire mitigation, the city will be working on providing flooding guidance moving forward.

Advice for other Municipalities

When asked for her advice for other municipalities, Karen gave several insights:

  • On engagement: “It’s really important to frame the discussion in a way that’s relevant to people. Start with the basics which are integral to your community’s economic health.”

  • On keeping resiliency a priority: “Communities that have experienced a series of disaster events sort of go through cycles of real concern, dealing with the impact, dealing with the recovery, but they also can get a little weary of it and push it to the back burner. It’s important to keep the message alive, but in tangible ways that is helpful for people. For us, educational guidance and tools for property owners is a really good means of doing that.” Karen also mentioned creating opportunities of engagement can useful reminders, like volunteer events to assist homeowners in managing vegetation and chipper days for wildfire mitigation. “Keeping to basic tools is really important.”

  • On limited resources: “All these things will take a lot of staff resources, but they are really critical.” Manitou Springs has a very involved citizenry, utilizes private-public partnerships to try new ideas, and continually explore grants and opportunities that have multiple benefits.

Evolution of the Colorado Energy Office

Evolution of the Colorado Resiliency Office

Building Resilience After the 2013 Front Range Floods

Faced with hard-hit communities up and down the Front Range after devastating flooding, the Hickenlooper Administration rapidly created the Colorado Recovery Office in the Fall of 2013. The Office initially acted as a facilitator of recovery resources for flood-impacted communities, prioritizing initiatives and securing grants at the state and federal level. As those recovery efforts matured, the office convened a diverse working group of state agencies and other stakeholders to evaluate and minimize vulnerabilities from shocks and stresses in the future.

The Colorado Resiliency Working Group (CRWG)

The Colorado Resiliency Working Group (CRWG)

The Colorado Resiliency Working Group (CRWG) focused on several key sectors including community, health and social, housing, economy, infrastructure, and watersheds and natural resources. For each sector, an agency was appointed as lead to support facilitation on the topic. CDOT, for example, was the state stakeholder chosen to facilitate considerations around infrastructure. Together, they helped develop the Colorado Resiliency Framework, the first of its kind in the nation. Upon adoption by Governor Hickenlooper in 2015, the office was renamed to the Colorado Resiliency and Recovery Office and focused the mission of the Recovery Office, with the CRWG made as the Framework’s steering committee.

With the passing of an update to the Colorado Disaster Emergency Act in 2018, the office is now housed under the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) and renamed as the Colorado Resiliency Office (CRO). The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management primarily oversees recovery efforts, though is supported by the CRO. Coordination among local and state agencies has never been stronger, and the structure of the CRO has piqued the interest of numerous other states looking to implement similar programs.

CRO’s Expanding Role to Support Communities Across Colorado

Over the last few years the CRO has been providing workshops, trainings, and targeted resiliency planning projects for disaster-impacted communities. A local/regional resilience framework process was piloted with the Counties of Boulder, Larimer, and El Paso around long-term shocks and stresses, serving “as a springboard for resiliency planning throughout the state.” This springboard is taking shape with recent onboarding of a new local resiliency planning manager and the development of a local resiliency program designed to meet the diverse needs of communities across the state.

“The evolution of recovery and resiliency is changing,” said CRO’s Resiliency Program Manager Rob Pressly. “Large and small scale events are constantly happening not only from drought, fires, rockfall, mudslides, but also economic vulnerabilities. The conversation is broadening out in context to include where workers housing is or the risk of a community losing coal jobs. There is a need to act now to minimize future losses and risk.”

CRO has been hosting various workshops and conferences for partners and leaders, with new resiliency training and resources for communities being developed. Communities eager for resources available now can check out the online Resiliency Resource Center. This online portal explores what resiliency is, how it’s relevant, and has tools to assist with a preliminary assessment of risks communities should be aware of. Keep a look out for a CRO statewide survey to stakeholders in the coming weeks through University of Colorado-Denver to evaluate issues and what resources will be valuable.

Advice for Community Leaders on Resilience

Unless a community has been through a disaster, it is difficult to assess all of the potential impacts it could have. Mr. Pressly gave the example of Estes Park after the flood, “The city was islanded. It was hard to get people out, and then those who live outside back in to work… it took a while for businesses to recover and the idea of hardening infrastructure took effect, only then becoming front and center.” Rebuilding roadways in tandem with improvements to natural environments, as seen in the US 34 Big Thompson Canyon work, became a critical focus of not only recovery efforts, but in long-term planning considerations across sectors.

Estes Park, Colorado:

Estes Park, Colorado:

Pressly sought to reassure small towns who are faced with limitations. Resilience is “not asking you to create new plans or change the way you work. Resiliency is incremental, and a good start can be just understanding what you’re vulnerable to.” Administrative activities already ongoing “can be tweaked to make it more resilient” with this mindset. Minute decisions today could pay dividends of benefits for years to come.

“Come to us,” emphasized Pressly. “Address resiliency before the next shock event, as recovery is the hardest time to implement resiliency. DOLA is here to serve communities and we can provide training, guidance and technical assistance. We can serve as conveners and facilitators, and if there’s a hesitancy [locally] it can be done at another level.” While there is currently not an official peer-to-peer network across the state for resilience, CRO at the minimum can help make connections with other counties and cities working on recovery and resilience.

State Agency Leaders & Compact Members Kickoff NEW Cooperative at October 16 Launch Meeting

By: Daniel Kreeger

Westminster’s Anita Seitz leads a group discussion on building a statewide online toolkit.

Westminster’s Anita Seitz leads a group discussion on building a statewide online toolkit.

In February 2018, the Compact and State of Colorado co-hosted a Symposium built upon a series of facilitated town hall discussions.  Those discussions resulted in a series of action items proposed by participantsthe question now being what do we do to address those needs and opportunities? 

Colorado Energy Office’s Maria Eisemann facilitates a working group discussion aimed at advancing clean transportation solutions.

Colorado Energy Office’s Maria Eisemann facilitates a working group discussion aimed at advancing clean transportation solutions.

Over the last several months, I worked with Governor Hickenlooper's Senior Climate Change Advisor, Taryn Finnessey, to evaluate potential approaches to meet our collective needs. We finally settled on the notion of forming a cooperative that would create a structure enabling state agencies, Compact members and other non-governmental organizations to come together through working groups and task forces to collaborate these action items.

COSEIA’s new CEO, Mike Kruger, talks clean energy with participants.

COSEIA’s new CEO, Mike Kruger, talks clean energy with participants.

This past Tuesday, the Colorado Communities Cooperative was kicked off at a meeting in Westminster.  A room of 75 people representing 8 state agencies, 15 Compact member communities and several dozen other organizations helped us shape the vision for the Cooperative and weighing in on proposed guidelines for participation. 

Here are some of the basic takeaways:

  • What is the Cooperative?
    The Cooperative is a framework between Colorado state agencies and the Compact of Colorado Communities that enables State agency personnel, Compact members and third-party organizations to streamline efforts and work collaboratively on cross-cutting solutions and challenges with tangible outcomes.

  • What is the Vision for the Cooperative?
    A collaborative structure enabling a safe, neutral environment to develop and implement practical, innovative and streamlined climate change and clean energy solutions.

  • How is it Administered?
    The Compact through ACCO is providing staff support that will provide facilitating support for working groups and manage public-facing resources generated through these initiatives.

  • Who can Participate?
    Any organization in Colorado may participate in a working group that is established under the Cooperative. However, we will require all groups either be focused on a community need or involve a local government.

  • Why Should Compact Members be Involved?
    The Cooperative is an important opportunity to bring organizations together to help you solve challenges that will be difficult (if not impossible) for an individual member to resolve.

Over the next month or two, we’ll publish a set of materials on the Cooperative as a whole, as well as specific working groups that will work toward developing and achieving important solutions.  We’ll establish a web site that publishes key information on each working group, including overall objectives, participants and upcoming actions so that interested individuals can get involved.

Questions about this initiative?

Contact Daniel Kreeger ( and Bryce Carter (

Utilities Across the State are Scaling Up Renewables Commitments

By: Sara Vargo

Across the state, utilities are making significant moves in scaling up their renewable energy goals. Recent announcements include:

  • Holy Cross Energy committed to 70% renewable energy and 70% greenhouse gas reductions by 2030;

  • Fort Collins committed to 100% renewable energy; and

  • Colorado Springs approved plans for a 150MW solar and storage project.

As renewable energy prices have dropped considerably and the pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions increases, Colorado is demonstrating leadership and momentum toward a clean energy economy. Here’s a snapshot of these commitments:

Holy Cross Energy Commits to 70% Clean Energy & Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Goals

Holy Cross Energy announced its plan to shift power supplies away from coal and increase its use of renewable energy to 70% by the year 2030. The Glenwood Springs based electric cooperative says the plan would lead to a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, compared to 2014 levels.

These shifts will not increase in the costs of the power supply.

Holy Cross Energy released a fact sheet complementing the news release with highlights including developing at least one utility scale clean energy project every three years starting in 2020, continued purchasing of power from local renewable energy providers (currently 13% of its power supply), and a goal of adding at least 2 megawatts of new rooftop solar each year on members’ homes and businesses.

When asked for his advice for fellow Compact members in this process, Holy Cross Energy board member Dave Munk shared, “The best and first place to start is with your local utility - tell them where you’re trying to go. It’s even better if you can involve them in the early stages of developing your climate goals. Utilities are more receptive to the interests of their customers or members than ever before. Building a good, collaborative working relationship is the best way to achieve your goals, no matter what type of utility you have.”

Dave also emphasized, “Keep in mind Holy Cross’s ability to achieve our goals is heavily based on our power supply agreement because it’s more flexible than most. Not everyone can look at our new GHG goals and turn to their utility expecting something similar… Utilities are increasingly receptive [to climate and renewable goals], though each has its own limitations to account for.”

For additional insights, check out Joe Smyth’s article at Clean Cooperative.

Fort Collins Commits to 100% Renewable Energy


On October 2nd The City of Fort Collins made a community-wide commitment to achieve 100% renewable electricity by the year 2030. During deliberation, the council chambers were filled with supporters wearing shirts or holding signs for 100%. The plan sets a 100 percent renewable energy goal with a caveat that the resolution doesn’t sacrifice affordability or reliability to customers and includes annual status updates.

Fort Collins City Council voted in favor of the plan 6-1. It will be the 9th Colorado city to make such a pledge including Aspen, Breckenridge, Boulder, Denver, Lafayette, Longmont, Nederland, and Pueblo.

The council member, Ken Summers, that voted against the plan said even he was ‘optimistic’. Summers has solar panels on his own home and supports renewable energy use statewide. His vote ‘no’ was simply out of concern for such an aspirational goal to be reached within the given time frame and that failing to meet that goal would appear to be a broken promise to the city and the state.

The plan sets a 100 percent renewable energy goal with a caveat that the resolution doesn’t sacrifice affordability or reliability to customers and includes annual status updates.

"I think this is very achievable,” Ross Cunniff, another Fort Collins Council Member said, “The other thing is we're not prescribing what to do. Instead, we're directing city staff to work with PRPA to create a plan to get there."

For more information, visit the Coloradan.

Colorado Springs Approves Plans for 150 MW Solar and Storage Project

On September 19th, the Colorado Springs Utilities Board approved plans for a 150 MW solar and storage project. The facility is expected to be operational by 2024, and will help the utility produce over a fifth of its electricity from renewable energy by then.

“This is the future,” board member Richard Skorman said. “This is getting to be more and more of a solution for community after community and we’re sitting her arguing over 13 cents. … We’re going to do something many people in our community want us to do. We are a citizen’s utility for this purpose.”

Learn more on this development at the Gazette.

A Review of Two Recent Colorado Energy Events

By: Sara Vargo

Last month featured a number of events focused upon Colorado’s energy sector. We thought a write-up on two of these events would be useful to Compact members:

  • The ENGAGE Delta County initiative held an energy conference in Paonia on September 17-18

  • The Rocky Mountain Utilities Exchange Summit which was held in Aspen September 19-21.

Rocky Mountain Utilities Exchange

2018 ENGAGE Energy Conference 


The 12th Rocky Mountain Utility Exchange (formerly the Colorado Utility Efficiency Exchange) occurred September 19-21st in Aspen.

The forum was a networking and professional development opportunity for roughly 150 utility and government organization staff, along with trade allies who provided products and services to support utility customer programs.

The conference was broken into general and breakout session interactions, as well as numerous networking opportunities. Themes explored included energy, renewable energy, demand response, water efficiency, and customer management. The general, breakout, and poster sessions acted to examine case study best practices and address lessons learned from those who develop, implement, and evaluate utility customer programs.

On Friday September 21st, one breakout session led by the Compact of Colorado Communities, “Community Goals Meet Utility Realities,” covered many challenges Colorado utility’s face. In it, they presented feedback from communities working to advance clean energy on the challenges and opportunities they see with regard to working with utilities and gathered similar input when it comes to working with communities. Participants also engaged in a roleplay activity to explore diverse perspectives from town managers, activists, utility directors, and more while gathering feedback on what best practices can help foster an effective dialogue between utilities and communities.

Our goal was to gather your feedback and recommendations for communities interested in better collaboration with utilities.  Some best practice recommendations emerged on ways to build trust and set up a process for effective community-utility cooperation:

Start building trust by identifying easy wins first

  • Local governments help advertise utility efficiency and demand-site management programs, or help identify land to site renewable systems

  • Utilities can likewise help local governments with data, recommendations and advice; strategies based on currently available programs and opportunities

  • Look for “win-win” opportunities for all parties

Establish a relationship, and commit for the long haul

  • Don’t wait until someone complains about something; don’t start the relationship on the wrong foot.  Be proactive.

  • Engage the next generation – those choices made now will impact them for years to come

  • Recognize that change doesn’t happen overnight.   It’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Commit to running it together.  

  • Try to create direct relationships for lasting change (concern about over-reliance on consultants who may look to collect & move on) 

  • “Put skin in the game” 

  • Consider an MOU announcing mutual goals the city & utility will work toward – this establishes a framework for cooperation and goals, roles, and responsibilities for each 

Identify common values

  • In initial meetings, work to establish an agreed-upon statement of shared values

  • Use these as a guiding light & look for opportunities to expand the impact and message

  • Try a role swap 

Share success

  • Involve each other in goal setting and share successes

  • Celebrate one another’s achievements

  • Consider joint (or jointly timed) press releases marking significant milestones

For more information, the latest news and to get involved next year, stay tuned with

Thanks to Kristen Taddonio for providing
these insights from the event.


On September 18th, Delta County ENGAGE and Delta County Economic Development hosted the second annual ENGAGE Energy Conference in Paonia, CO.  Building on the momentum established last year at the inaugural event, the conference this year focused on the rapidly changing wholesale power markets that are being driven by cheap natural gas and the rapidly declining cost of renewable energy resources.

Tom Plant of the Center for the New Energy Economy delivered the keynote address where he provided a historical overview of the energy markets that underscored the rapid changes that have turned the industry upside down in the last few years.  Few people forecasted the rapid decline in the cost of renewable generation resources and this, coupled with a growing demand for mitigation of climate impacting greenhouse gasses, has driven a spike into utility resource planning programs.

Chris Riley of Guzman Energy followed with a presentation outlining the opportunity that exists to capitalize on this widening gap between utility rates and the wholesale market.

Paul Fenn of Local Power introduced the audience to Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), which allows individuals and communities to aggregate their buying power and source energy from alternatives to the traditional investor owned utility. CCA legislation is expected to come to Colorado one day and its potential impact will be significant.

Larry Atencio of Pueblo spoke about the City of Pueblo’s efforts to change its energy supply to lower costs and provide more “energy justice” to income qualified individuals, while also lowering emissions.

Mark Dyson of the Rocky Mountain Institute followed with a rigorous discussion surrounding the opportunity for Western region utilities to innovate towards a least cost future.  No longer is this a future dream, recent bids for renewable energy resources have demonstrated that these resources are now cheaper than alternative fossil fuel based resources.

For those that are interested, the presentations from the event can be downloaded at:

We appreciate John Gavan for providing us
with a detailed report back on this event.

Q&A with Xcel Energy: Discussing the Colorado Energy Plan

Kelly Flenniken the Area Manager for Xcel Energy, Colorado, answers our questions about the Colorado Energy Plan.

What is the Colorado Energy Plan?

The Colorado Energy Plan is Xcel Energy’s roadmap to develop a cleaner energy mix and reduce carbon emissions. The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved the plan in August 2018.

The plan will invest $2.5 billion in eight counties, to add more than 1,100 megawatts of wind generation, more than 700 MW of large-scale solar, and 275 MW of battery storage. The Plan will also retire two coal-fired generation units in Pueblo, and acquire 375 MW of existing natural gas generation, to support reliability.

Best of all, we plan to do this while keeping customers’ bills low: we estimate that customers will save more than $200 million as a result of this plan.

How does the Colorado Energy Plan help reduce emissions?

Under the Colorado Energy Plan, by 2026, we will achieve nearly 55 percent renewable energy on our power grid. We will reduce carbon emissions in Colorado by about 60 percent from 2005 levels, and cut NO2 and Sox emissions by 90 percent.

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Our carbon story is among the best in the country. It’s important to note that Xcel Energy is developing renewable energy for all our customers, not just the ones who are motivated by sustainability. We are already delivering more than 28 percent renewable energy to every customer in Colorado.

What are the resources Xcel Energy provides to support communities’ renewable and emission targets?

The Partners in Energy program puts Xcel Energy’s expertise in energy efficiency and resource planning to work with communities across Colorado. These two-year collaborations, offered free to any community in our service area, include forming a team of stakeholders, developing a six-month assessment and Energy Action Plan, and 18 months of implementation.

For example, Garfield County’s partnership includes six communities, public entities, clean energy advocates, bankers and contractors. Also participating were three other energy companies that serve the area: Black Hills Energy, Holy Cross Energy and Glenwood Springs Electric. Together they built a one-stop solution that offers energy assessments, rebate info and financing for any home or business in Garfield County.

Are there other programs that are relevant to municipalities taking action on climate change?

This year Xcel Energy launched a new program, Energy Future Collaborations, a flexible framework to advance communities’ energy needs and goals. The collaborations acknowledge that it is better for the company and communities to work together on the many areas upon which we agree, rather than being limited by things on which we disagree. Encouraging the CPUC to approve the Colorado Energy Plan is just one example.

After a nonbinding Memorandum of Understanding is executed, the parties develop a work plan that can include existing programs, new solutions, or potential public-private partnerships. So far eight communities have signed MOUs, starting with Breckenridge in January.

With Energy Future Collaborations, Xcel Energy can nurture relationships with community leaders and stakeholders, while they gain a better understanding of our business and regulatory environment. We hope to create transformative solutions while building a supportive statewide network of problem-solvers.

Letter from Daniel Kreeger

Dear Compact Members -

It’s an exciting time for Colorado communities and for ACCO. With the approval of the Colorado Energy Plan and Governor Hickenlooper’s order on low-emission vehicles, Colorado is taking big steps toward a clean energy future.

Within the Compact, we have a number of exciting developments:

  • Compact Member Bulletin — We have officially launched a monthly newsletter thanks to the great work of Bryce Carter and Sara Vargo — feel free to send them your ideas for future stories, or even contribute a story yourself!

  • Colorado Communities Cooperative Launch Meeting — The Compact and State of Colorado will team up to form a cooperative that is designed to facilitate collaboration on the action items stemming from the Colorado Communities Symposium earlier this year. Please be sure to review the action items and sign up for the October 16 launch meeting in Westminster.

  • Clean Energy Means Business — The Compact will be teaming up with the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (COSEIA) for the Clean Energy Means Business conference on November 12-13 in Denver. ACCO will be producing a formal training on procuring clean energy for legal, finance and procurement professionals that will be embedded within this event — this will be a great opportunity for you to build capacity on scaling up clean energy in your community!

  • Staff Training Requirements — The steering committee has adopted the staff training requirements and members are beginning to leverage the online training resources that ACCO has made available — please feel free to schedule an appointment with me so we can walk you through the requirements.

  • Training for Elected Officials — Last week, a group of Compact members joined ACCO members from Maryland and Florida to begin shaping a curriculum for elected officials and city/county managers — we hope to have this curriculum completed by the end of the year. Compact members Lucinda Smith (Fort Collins), Dick White (Durango), Anita Seitz (Westminster) and Ron LeBlanc (Durango). If you would like to join this group, please contact me.


  • Workshop on Climate Preparedness in Critical Infrastructure Sectors — ACCO will be hosting a half-day workshop in January 2019 to present findings from our research on behalf of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and collect feedback in order to report back. An announcement and invitations will be distributed in the coming weeks.

  • Upgraded Learning Management System — Our new director of credentialing and training programs, Paul Miller, is working on building a new learning management system. We’ll be unveiling this resource by early November, which will facilitate collaboration within the learning environment for Compact members.

As you can see, you’ll be seeing a substantial ramp up in our work together … we look forward to working with you and advancing your communities capacity to drive bold climate change initiatives!

Best regards,

Daniel Kreeger
Executive Director
Association of Climate Change Officers

Q&A with Jonathan Koehn, Regional Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Boulder

Q&A with Boulder’s Jonathan Koehn on 5th Annual Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance Conference plus more

In September, Boulder hosted a meeting of the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, bringing together international leaders in local climate action. Boulder’s Regional Sustainability Coordinator, Jonathan Koehn, discussed the event and his city’s role as a climate leader.

How has Boulder become a hub for international climate science?

It’s a combination of the area’s natural beauty, research institutions and a public that really stands behind this important topic. Certainly, the community has long been concerned with preserving nature, which is best exemplified in the beautiful open space that surrounds the city. But the presence of the federal labs like NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the University of Colorado has attracted world-class climate researchers from across the globe.


What is the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, and what was on the agenda for the recent meeting in Boulder?

Boulder recently hosted the 5th annual Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA) annual meeting, with representatives from 22 of the world’s leading cities in climate action. Cities attending included Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro, Yokohama, New York City, London, Melbourne, San Francisco, Oslo and many other leading global cities, all of whom have made commitments to reduce their carbon emissions by 80% or more by 2050.

It was such a remarkable honor to host some of the leading cities working on climate issues. During the week-long summit, we got a chance to discuss the great ideas, policies and projects other cities are working on. For instance, I learned about Vancouver’s impressive efforts to bring renewable transportation options to their residents and businesses. We also hosted a town hall which is available to watch at

What resources and support can Boulder offer other municipalities in Colorado looking to tackle implications of climate change?

There is a growing recognition that cities and towns are on the front lines when it comes to a changing climate. In Colorado, these changes are affecting our fragile high-altitude ecosystems and hit at the heart of our communities’ local economies, affecting roads and bridges, parks and forests, buildings, farming and agriculture, the ski industry, and public open space. This is a crisis that will affect our food, our national security, our water, our ability to live where we choose, and other basic human needs. Whether and how we address global warming is not a question of science, it's a question of values.


These challenges we face are so much bigger than any one community. While we will continue to share our experiences and lessons, we believe that the most effective actions are those we implement together. With a focus on training and program design, the Colorado Compact is creating vital local opportunities, while the Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA) is focusing on climate policy reform. These two coalitions are leading the way, and thanks to the leadership from all of the involved jurisdictions, we will create and implement new ways to stabilize the climate, while improving the health, safety and economic productivity of our communities. 

I welcome the opportunity to share Boulder’s experiences. Folks are welcome to email me at and I’d love to connect.

Colorado Progresses On Low Emission Vehicle Standards

By: Bryce Carter

On August 16th the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission unanimously agreed to develop a rule to meet California’s Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standard to be considered for review in November. In front of an overflowing hearing of mostly supporters, the Commission also agreed to investigate a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standard with a requirement for manufacturers to sell more electric vehicles with potential penalties for not meeting targets. These decisions come after Governor Hickenlooper instructed for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to write language for the Commission to consider after the Trump Administration’s announcement to pursue rolling back the goals of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard.

Four Tesla Electric Vehicles at Columbus, Texas, Supercharger.    Ed Uthman   , Flickr

Four Tesla Electric Vehicles at Columbus, Texas, Supercharger. Ed Uthman, Flickr

Background of CAFE and Proposed Changes

The Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the new CAFE standards in April of this year, setting out to curtail benchmarks established during the Obama administration. The proposal will reduce the regulatory standard from 54.5 miles per gallon per fleet average by 2025 to leveling out at 37 miles per gallon in 2020, including the use of credit trading for manufacturers to meet goals. According to EPA documentation, this year’s regulatory compliance target is 38.3 miles per gallon. Credits from electric vehicles have helped meet these targets, with Tesla alone having likely sold more than $700 million worth of credits by mid-2017.

The agencies have cited unrealistic goals and public safety for the reasoning behind this change. The proposed rulemaking is focused around several highly questionable if not bizzare claims including:

  • newer vehicle models may be lightweighted which increases the likelihood for on-road fatalities,

  • lower gas mileage results in higher fuel costs and thus less driving,

  • the upfront cost-savings for less fuel efficient vehicles allows for a greater turnover for newer vehicle purchases with advanced safety features,

  • and there would be no noticeable impact on overall emissions.

Of course many of these claims are being debated, and California has taken a lead with an 18-state coalition lawsuit against the proposed changes.

Why California Standards?

A unique regulatory loophole has allowed for two parallel vehicle emission standards to exist between the federal government and the state of California. A waiver was afforded by Congress in the Clean Air Act to support California to address the then-unique difficulties the state faced with smog pollution at the time. This resulted in the eventual creation of California’s Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Standards, pollution safeguards now adopted by 13 other states representing 40% of the American population. Some automakers had faced tremendous pressure and political contention to meet these dueling standards (the aforementioned Tesla excluded), but this was relieved when they were virtually aligned once again with the Obama administration’s update to federal CAFE minimums. In addition to significantly reducing these federal minimums, the Trump Administration is seeking to also withdraw California’s waiver.

EVs are Essential to Colorado’s Climate Commitment

Colorado became a member of the U.S. Climate Alliance last year, committing to meet the Paris Climate Agreement of a 26% reduction of statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 from 2005 levels. Governor Hickenlooper has stated the current fuel standards are essential to meeting this goal, and ordered the state to work toward adopting the California LEV by the end of the year assuming the federal standard will be rolled back. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, adoption of the California LEV would cost consumers an additional $954 per vehicle, but save $3,412 through fuel efficiency over its lifetime. In addition, statewide greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 2 million tons by 2030.

Public advocacy from the Commission’s hearing resulted in a separate consideration for adopting California’s zero-emission electric vehicle standard, requiring vehicle manufacturers to sell a certain amount of EV cars and trucks through a credit system or face penalties. Whether or not a ZED Standard is created, Colorado has already established itself as a national leader for electric vehicles from its favorable tax credits to rapidly expanding infrastructure. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission will consider the LEV Standard in November, and hold an initial proceeding for the ZEV standard in December followed by a potential rulemaking for it in March 2019.

Colorado Energy Plan Approval Will Mean New Renewable Energy Investments in Rural Colorado

By: Joe Smyth

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved Xcel Energy’s Colorado Energy Plan yesterday, greenlighting the plan to close two units at the Comanche coal plant in Pueblo Colorado, and replace that power with a mix of new renewable energy and battery storage projects along with existing natural gas plants.

Xcel Energy’s plan attracted national attention this year due to the proposals for large scale battery storage projects and unprecedented bids for cheap new wind and solar energy. In Colorado, the plan attracted support from labor, business, environmental, and community organizations, thanks to its expected economic and health benefits.

A report this week from the Colorado Fiscal Institute found that closing the two coal units would reduce air pollutants in Pueblo and Colorado, leading to fewer asthma attacks, emergency rooms visits, and other health problems. A June report from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the plan would create hundreds of new jobs, boost local tax revenue, and provide a net positive economic impact to the state - mostly by avoiding nearly $1 billion in coal purchases from Wyoming.

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Rural Colorado counties have recently attracted new jobs from renewable energy projects, and Public Utilities Commission's approval of the Colorado Energy Plan will lead to another $2.5 billion investment and further expansion of those industries, particularly in Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Weld, Baca, and Pueblo counties.

Commissioners from several counties in Colorado’s Eastern Plains wrote to the Public Utilities Commission to highlight the economic benefits of the Colorado Energy Plan in the region:

The corollary economic impact on Colorado’s rural counties cannot be understated. Rural Colorado is proud to be a leader in renewable energy production, delivering reliable energy resources that support competitive energy rates across the state. The increase in renewable energy projects in rural communities has had a significant positive impact on our local economies. These economic benefits extend well beyond the short-term construction phase. The long-term assets proposed for construction increase the local tax base which helps fund local services, public safety, schools, and libraries. The projects provide desirable and high paying jobs that keeps local workers in our communities and drive new vocational training at local community colleges. For projects on private land, local land owners receive stable long-term lease payments that reduce reliance on erratic commodity prices.

Other utilities in the Rocky Mountain region could also reduce costs by replacing coal plants with a mix of new renewable energy projects and market purchases. A report from Rocky Mountain Institute last week found that Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association could save its 43 member cooperatives over $600 million by shifting from coal to renewable energy, and the Denver Post reported that “Tri-State officials planned to meet in Denver on Thursday to discuss boosting the use of renewable energy sources.”  

A report from Energy Strategies also found that Pacificorp could reduce costs for its customers by closing higher cost coal units, including the Craig and Hayden coal plants in Colorado, in favor of new wind energy projects. Other utilities in Colorado like Platte River Power Authority and Black Hills Energy are also planning new wind energy projects as a way to reduce costs.

And Xcel Energy itself could pursue a broader transition away from coal - Executive Vice President David Eves said at a conference this year that the Pueblo coal units "will not be the last coal plant we retire early."

Article used with permission from Joe Smyth, read it and more reactions to the Public Utilities Commission approval of the Colorado Energy Plan at