Partnering with local businesses, the federal labs and the university to meet our energy use reduction goals


The greenest kilowatt is the one that we don’t use. Dollar for dollar, energy efficiency provides greater returns and local economic benefits than investments in infrastructure for renewable energy (although investments in renewable energy must be a significant part of our portfolio).


Graphic from the City's Climate Action Plan

Graphic from the City’s Climate Action Plan

Boulder’s ratio of residential/commercial energy use is on par with that of major cities such as Denver, CO, Portland, OR and Austin, TX. In many ways, we operate like the major central business district in Boulder County. This is due to the presence of large institutions like the federal labs and the university. According to our Climate Action Plan, most of our greenhouse gas emissions come from building energy use, with 59.6 percent attributable to the use of electricity. Of this total, 82.5 percent comes from commercial and industrial buildings. This presents a huge opportunity.


As a community, we have already had great success with the synergies between our Smart Regs program and the Boulder County EnergySmart program. Smart Regs, adopted in 2010, has induced 30% more energy retrofits to rental units than were made to owner occupied homes, and the deadline for compliance is not even until 2019! Smart Regs have gone a long way toward addressing the so-called “split incentive”, a formidable challenge in the design of this policy. We’re seeing that a well-designed mix of incentives, program support and smart policy can really move the marketplace to help us achieve our community goals.


Commercial and industrial energy use is a bigger piece of the pie and represents an even greater opportunity. Once again, collaborative, community-driven approach to program implementation and policy design will be the key to effectively reducing the energy use of this sector and increasing the bottom line of our local businesses.


Two guys with a job

David and Jeremiah, two guys with jobs thanks to the Energy Smart Program

A very exciting pilot program is already under way that takes this approach. Participants (building owners and users) working with energy coaches are voluntarily recording and reporting benchmarking data and learning about how to make energy use reduction improvements that can improve their bottom line. So far, the pilot is receiving rave reviews from both the participants and the energy coaches. The pilot program is a step in the development of appropriate incentives, support services and policies that will help our businesses operate more efficiently.


I support this effort. Let’s keep this collaboration going so that together, we can create an effective policy for commercial and industrial energy users to invest in energy efficiency. In doing so, businesses can operate more efficiently, improve their bottom lines, spur innovation and create resources and services that will enhance our overall local economy. Oh, and did I mention it would lower our greenhouse gas emissions?


Energy efficiency reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency is an opportunity to create a more robust and resilient local economy. Energy efficiency makes business sense.