Clean Energy Elsewhere

In brainstorming how our town can achieve our targets we have looked at examples from other communities to explore the progress they are making towards their clean energy targets.

Over 1,000 American cities have voluntarily committed themselves to ambitious targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions! And the Mayor’s from these 10 cities have pledged to boost energy efficiency in all government buildings.

Fort Collins, Colorado. Population: 148,612

More information can be found here.

Energy goals:

1)    GHG reduction of 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80% reduction by 2050;

2)    Achieve annual energy efficiency and conservation program savings of at least 1.5% of annual energy use (based on a three-year average history);

3)    Maintain a minimum fraction of renewable energy in compliance with Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard requirements for municipal utilities to meet 10% of energy demand with renewables by 2020.

4)    For downtown, their goal is net-zero by 2020.

Recognizing that individual efforts in efficiency and renewables might not be sufficient to achieve Fort Collins’ goals, the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster and the non-profit UniverCity Connections launched a new idea they called FortZED in 2007.

Fort Collins worked to transform their downtown and the main campus of CSU into a net Zero Energy District called Fort ZED, through conservation, efficiency, renewable sources and smart technologies.

FortZED is a collaborative effort among the city of Fort Collins, Fort Collins Utilities, the Colorado Clean Energy Cluster, and Colorado State University. It is two square miles and 45 MW of peak electricity demand or approximately 10–15% of Fort Collins Utilities’ distribution system.

Have they succeeded?

  • Community carbon emissions from electricity use were 6% less in 2012 compared to the baseline year of 2005.
  • Electricity use per capita, for all sectors, has decreased by 8% from 2005 to 2012
  • Renewable energy comprised 5.2% of total electrical energy purchases in 2012.
  • Efficiency programs generated over $20 million in local economic benefits through reduced utility bills, direct rebates and leveraged investment.
  • Photovoltaic (PV) capacity additions totaled 350 kW

Just over two thirds of Fort Collins’ power comes from two coal plants and a quarter comes from regional hydro-power. Currently, only 3% of the city’s power comes from renewables

Initial efforts in FortZED have centered around four projects:

1)    Renewable and distributed system integration—Represents the largest project and focuses on coordinating distributed resources to reduce peak electricity demand;

2)     New Energy Communities Grant—Reduces energy demand in city buildings and installs renewable energy technologies;

3)    Community Energy Challenge—Grassroots outreach effort to reduce home energy use; and

4)    The Green Restaurant Initiative—Encourages local restaurants to conserve energy.

What is their key to success?

1)    They established public/ private partnerships including local government, academia and industry

2)    They have a progressive municipal utility–The Town of Fort Collins has a city council and a separate electric board. Their utility provides rebates and energy assessments.

3)    They have engaged the local business community:

  • FortZED provides economic support for local private sector clean energy technology companies.
  • There are 31 clean energy companies and an incubator for clean energy companies

4)    They view their region as a leader in clean energy technology and FortZed is a way to legitimize that role

5)    They have community buy-in

6)    Their goals complement the City’s Climate Action Plan, Energy Policy, and other related Utilities programs and projects.

7)    They allow options for the customer: Residents and businesses can purchase clean, renewable energy for an additional 2.4 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).*


  • For FortZed they have $11.3 million in funding from federal and local support

Austin,TX. Population: 842,592

More information can be found here.

Renewable Portfolio Standard: 35% by 2020 and 200 MW from solar by 2020.

  • In 2007, Austin City Council passed a resolution to establish a Climate Protection Plan with a renewable portfolio goal of 30% by 2020 and for 100 MW required to come from solar. Additionally, they set a resolution to power municipal buildings and facilities using 100% renewable energy by 2012.
  • In 2011, their City Council approved a more aggressive plan through 2020 increasing the renewable portfolio goal to 35% by 2020 and doubling the solar requirement from 100 MW to 200 MW.
  • In 2013 the EPA recognized Austin with the 2013 Climate Leadership Award.

Other requirements established by the Climate Protection resolution include:

  • Making the entire City fleet of vehicles carbon neutral by 2020
  • Developing and implementing departmental climate protection plans
  • Developing an employee education program
  • Achieving 700 MW of new savings through energy efficiency and conservation efforts by 2020
  • Establishing a CO2 cap and developing a reduction plan for existing utility emissions
  • Achieving carbon neutrality on any new carbon-based generation facilities
  • Implementing aggressive building codes to maximize energy efficiency.

What is the key to success?

  • Using long term planning strategies, the City set annual benchmarks for the percentage of renewable energy it uses annually. They have a 10 year strategic plan outlining how they will meet their targets
  • They have a Mayor’s Climate Protection Plan
  • They have a municipalized utility that they work with closely.
    • Austin Energy committed to develop 15 megawatts (MW) of solar generating capacity by 2007, increasing to 100 megawatts by 2020, increasing it again in 2011 to 200 MW by 2020.


  • Funding to achieve the 5% increase in renewable energy resources was provided by Austin Energy’s green pricing program — GreenChoice. Residential and business customers can opt in to have the standard (fossil) fuel charge on their electric bill replaced entirely by the GreenChoice power charge, which will remain fixed for 10 years.
  • They received a Department of Energy Sustainable Communities Grant

Bedford, NY. Population: 17,335

More information can be found here. 

Emissions reductions goals: 20% by 2020

  • Their first step was compiling a baseline greenhouse gas inventory in 2004 to determine what percentage came from what industry ( pg 6)
  • Their second step was to create a Climate Action Plan for four sectors: Energy, Land Use, Transportation and Waste

Their plan was for:

1. Aggregate community buying power

2. Complete a renewable energy inventory of the town/region and capture the potential

3. Smart grid investments

4. Renewable Energy Loan Program

5. Buy more renewable energy

  • They found that existing buildings were contributing more than 60% to their greenhouse gas emissions so they decided to aggressively focus on the building sector.

What was their key to success?

1)    They launched a number of initiatives to help meet their goals including “Energize Bedford” which is a community based residential energy efficiency program funded by US DoE CBG and the state of New York

This served as a model for Energize Westchester doing retrofits in 13 other communities.

2)    Their community engagement: the Bedford 2020 Coalition was created to lead, organize and promote the community wide effort to reduce GHG.

3)    They provided free home energy assessments for homeowners under a certain income.

Boulder, CO. Population: 101,000

More information can be found here. 

Emissions reduction goals:

  • In 2002, the Boulder City Council passed a resolution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the target established by the Kyoto Protocol, 7% below 1990 levels by 2012.
    • But they fell short of meeting this goal.
      • Why? They attribute it to the fossil fuel makeup of their power. They found that it was going to be incredibly challenging to reduce emissions due to the high energy demand and the carbon intensity of their energy supply. Currently, 57 percent of Boulder’s energy supply comes from coal and 32 percent comes from natural gas.
      • In 2011, voters approved funding to explore the possibilities of municipalization and authorized the City to establish language for operating and governing a Boulder municipal utility to make their energy supply less carbon intensive.

Their new goal is for 80% reduction by 2050 which would require Boulder residents to cut their electricity use by a quarter by 2020 and in half by 2030. They would have to reduce their travel by car from an average of 20 miles a day in 2013 to less than four miles in 2050

Climate action plan:

1)    They established a strategic plan: The Boulder Climate Action Plan (CAP), an integrated, aggressive set of programs and strategies to reduce Boulder’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan has six key strategy areas including:

1)    Reducing use in existing buildings which they do through their EnergySmart program.

Additionally, they have a program designed to improve efficiency in rental properties, which requires all rental property to meet a basic energy efficiency standard by 2019.  In order for rental property owners to renew their rental housing license they are required to meet a HERS rating of 120.

2) Building smarter new buildings– Green Buildings and Green Points requires that all new buildings and residential remodels and additions are constructed 30% more efficient than the standard code.

3) Increase renewables– the City operates 7 hydroelectric plants and captures methane from the waste-water treatment plant

4) Transportation–encouraging biking and walking and low-emissions vehicles

5) Reduce the amount of waste going into landfills

6) Plant more trees

Recipe for success:

1)    Flexibility–they found that as 2012 approached that they were not going to meet their goals so they had to re-strategize. This led them to municipalize.  

2)    A municipal utility

3)    A consistent sustainable funding source

4)    Taking a baseline inventory, measuring emissions

5)    Adding a lot of solar. City initiatives, a solar rebate program and involvement in state legislative efforts, have resulted in the installation of more than 11.3 megawatts of solar PV throughout Boulder, representing the highest per-capita installed solar capacity of any city in the U.S.

6)    Innovative policies: they are requiring that residences comply with a basic standard for energy efficiency by 2019.


  • In 2006, Boulder voters passed the Climate Action Plan (CAP) tax, the nation’s first tax exclusively designated for climate change mitigation and in 2012, voters approved renewal of the tax to support continuing climate action.

Jackson, WY. Population: 9,838

More information can be found here.

Emissions reduction goals:

  • Reduce the 30MW of energy needed to meet the area’s projected load growth by 33% over 20 years by resource conservation
  • Develop renewable energy resources to generate 2MW additional energy in 20 years
  • Perform energy efficiency retrofits in 80% of buildings
  • Encourage and advocate for adoption of building codes to require maximum energy efficiency for future buildings and infrastructure.

Reasons for Success:

1)    Leadership: James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank, challenged the Mayor of Jackson to transform Jackson into a model of energy efficiency for the world. Wolfensohn has been lending his leadership and financial support to the town to pioneer clean energy solutions

2)    They created a Steering Committee comprised of officials from the Town, the county and a rural coop utility and a rep from the Governor’s office.

3)    Strategic Plan: They created a 20-year Action Plan for energy conservation.

  1. They performed a county wide GHG inventory
  2. Based on this inventory they set goals

4)    Partnership with the utility

  1. The group achieved a tri-partite governance agreement between the Town, County and the Valley.

5)    The secured sustainable funding. In 2010 voters approved $3.7 million in Special Purpose Excise Tax monies to upgrade the public facilities of the community

6)    Loan program: They received $1.5 million from the State of Wyoming to provide energy efficiency loans to community members.

7)    Thinking big

They installed the largest solar array in the state (4MW) on the Town’s wastewater treatment facility. They plan to expand it to 5 MW.


  • They received EECBG Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program grants from the DOE
  • They raised $350,000 in private donations
  • Received funding from a local charity

Identified Keys to Success:

  • Partnerships
  • Leadership
  • Goal setting and quantitative analysis
  • Ambitious requirements for the building sector
  • Incentives and voluntary programs
  • Innovative financing
  • Creative community outreach
  • Focus on job creation
  • Catalytic projects

Town of Breckenridge: Population: 4,564

More information can be found here.

Emissions Reductions Goals: 20% reduction in energy use by 2020.

  • A key component of the town’s Sustainable Breck planning is a Carbon Action Plan drafted in 2009, which includes a community-wide inventory and goals for energy efficiency, renewable energy, diversion of solid waste from the landfill, and town fleet fuel use reduction. Through carbon-offset purchases, the electricity consumption for town facilities comes from renewable energy sources.


  • Electricity consumption is down: Town-wide electrical consumption in 2012 is 14% below 2011 levels.
  • They have saved money: Since 2011, they have saved $200,000 by purchasing clean, locally produced energy from a PPA
  • Natural gas consumption decreased 11% over the same time
  • CO2 production associated with energy consumption has decreased 13% since 2011, largely due to the reduction of residential energy use
  • Electricity consumption has decreased 21.9% and natural gas use has decreased 3.5% Town wide since 2007.
  • From 2007 -2013 they decreased solid waste 29% so they are ahead of their 2020 goal of reducing it by 30%.

Falling short:

  • The community falls short of their goal of 10% of electricity being produced by renewable resources by 2020. As of 2013, only 3.3% of Breck’s electricity comes from renewables.

Additional successes:

  • They have a disposable bag fee adopted and implemented at all Town retail shops
  • They have made energy upgrades to Town facilities
  • They have the SustainableBreck Business Certification program
  • The Town completed two solar gardens on Town owned property which provide Summit County 1,000 KW of energy production and solar on Town facilities (418 KW installed), offsets 11% of all Town facility electric consumption

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