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 UtilityExchange.org.

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: https://engagedeltacounty.org/2018-conference/

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