Town commits to renewable energy

John Scarffe, Nederland.  The Town of Nederland will transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2025. The Nederland Board of Trustees passed a resolution making Nederland the fourth city in Colorado and the 42nd city in the United States to make this commitment during a regular meeting at 7 p.m., August 15, 2017, at the Nederland Community Center.


Nederland joins the Colorado communities of Pueblo, Boulder and Aspen that also have adopted a 100 percent clean and renewable goal. At its July 18 meeting, the Board requested consideration of a resolution of support at its August 15 meeting for the Climate Together 100 percent renewable energy transition.


Magnolia area resident Eryka Thorley told the Board then that she represented Climate Together of Nederland. The group came to the meeting to ask the Board to pass a resolution on August 15 transitioning the Town’s electricity supply to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2032.


The groundwork has been laid for communities to create their own solar initiatives, such as the Community Solar Gardens Act in 2010, said Jennifer Moore, director of the Mountain Planet Program who lives in the Caribou area. In 2012, Governor Ritter approved virtual net metering and changed access to renewable energy systems for people otherwise limited.
For a Nederland solar garden, the town could use the grid that already exists, Moore said. It could be built with a five-to-10-acre lot or a few smaller parcels combined. A 1.5 mega-watt system would power the municipality, residences and businesses and could extend to residents outside of town.


At the August 15 meeting, Mayor Kristopher Larsen introduced the resolution and said the Board signed on the Paris accords, and the Nederland Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB) came up with a plan to meet the need. The Trustees previously passed a resolution in support of the Paris Agreement resolving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goals set by the international community under the agreement.


Thorley said the resolution to move the Town of Nederland to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 would make Nederland the fourth city in Colorado and the 42nd in the United States to sign such a resolution. The resolution ensures the transition to 100 percent renewable energy for the Nederland community’s electricity supply by 2030.


The Board recognizes climate change and that Nederland is already experiencing the effects and associated costs of climate changes. The transition to a community reliant of efficient uses of renewable energy resources will improve air quality, water quality and enhance public health, according to the resolution.


“Renewable energy” includes energy derived from wind, solar and geothermal sources. As interim milestones the Town will transition to 100 percent renewable electric use for its municipally owned buildings and services by 2022, achieve 50 percent renewable energy for its electrical supply by 2025 and achieve 75 percent renewable energy for its electrical supply by 2027, according to the resolution.


The Town will create structured mechanisms to include low-income citizens in the benefits to be derived from affordable clean energy, and the Town seeks to collaborate with surrounding areas and also with other communities. By January 2018, SAB will develop a preliminary plan for the Town to achieve 100 percent community-wide renewable electricity by 2030. The Sustainability Advisory Board may actively pursue public and private partnerships, according to the resolution.
Thorley said this resolution moves away from fossil fuels and toward energy resiliency.


“The town is saying we support this and will allow us to go out and get bids. Is it a solar garden here or on the flats?”


Moore said she had updates from questions at the previous meeting. They got in touch with Craig Eicher with Xcel Energy, and he said Excel would be excited to help. If the Town decides on a solar garden, Excel will help determine how to come up with the most successful bid.


Larsen said the Town is currently at 2.9 percent so there’s a lot of room for growth in our portfolio. Trustee Julie Gustafson said: “You guys are a complete inspiration. It’s unlikely we would get 100 percent of the population to agree. What was the way we were going to address that?


Moore said she didn’t have a good answer for that right now. Because the price will be better, we can reach out to everyone, but there could be a handful of people of who might not want to participate.


Thorley said new options are coming down the line from Xcel in 2018. The agreement would be for a fixed rate for 20 years. Options are available for how you integrate those people into a contract.


Thorley said that in this room are some serious experts. Mario Molina, international director with the Climate Reality Project, told the Board he is not an expert on engineering, but he is a Nederland resident, so he has double the interest in this.


The purpose of the resolution is to provide the framework and guidelines so they can go out and get bids, Molina said.


“There’s a market window for solar in the United States right now.”


Leslie Glustrom with Clean Energy Action said she is a long-time supporter of wind source. She lives in Boulder and has spent a lot of time working with the utility commission. When you buy wind sources you are retiring wind from five years ago. It’s about a 5 percent.


“We have good reason to believe we can do this, save money and start to stabilize our bills,” Glustrom said. “When you add wind and solar you save money.”


Trustee Topher Donahue said we should put a turbine in the middle of Barker Reservoir. Glustrom said she encourages the Town to have those conversations, because there is a place you can actually put it, and you can do it in a very visible and local fashion.


Trustee Alan Apt said this is great serendipity, because that’s why he wanted to be on the Board in the first place. Mayor Larsen said he wants to modify the resolution to seven years.


Brent Tregaskis, general manager for Eldora Mountain Resort, said he has met with Thorley and, from an Eldora perspective, he would love to see this move forward. “We’re an eight-megawatt plant, so we’re a large user, and that would fit into what our goals and objectives are. Doing something with solar in the mountain would be very appealing to us.”


Donahue asked what the timeline is based on. Thorley said it’s based on a 15-year commitment for your town or the ski resort. There are some big hurdles, and the Town can’t renegotiate its agreement with Xcel until 2020. Xcel has to have the ultimate stamp on it.


“We don’t want to go off the grid. We want to use what’s actually established,” Thorley said “That’s what Boulder is doing.” Nederland resident Lester Karplus said that what we’re hung up on here is 100 percent as opposed to moving a timeline. “We could do it in a couple of years if we have political will and customers.”


Donahue said: “I’d like to see us do it faster. Trying to do it faster is better.” Larsen said, “We are the small town leading the way.” Larsen proposed modifying the goal to municipal use by 2020, 75 percent by 2022 and 100 percent by 2025.


Mayor Pro-Tem Charles Wood advised giving the Town more time. Larsen said that 2025 might be a better goal for us. The Board voted to approve the amendment modifying the time line, with Wood voting against it, and then unanimously passed the resolution for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025.


(Originally published in the August 24, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)