Town of Carbondale seeking input on proposed enegy bill carbon fee

Aspen Daily News Staff Report
A proposal to add a carbon fee to electric and natural gas utility bills for the next five years is being mulled in Carbondale, and public input is being sought on the matter.

The proposed fee would be included on electric and natural gas utility bills for homes and buildings within the town of Carbondale, generating revenue over a five-year period to accelerate and incentivize clean energy and energy efficiency, according to a statement from Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER).

A meeting is slated from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday evening at the Third Street Center (520 S. Third St.) to gather public comments on the measure, which may appear on April’s ballot. The event will feature a presentation and discussion about the proposed fee, what amount the public would like to see it set at, and what uses should come from the revenue.

Carbondale 2020 coalition representatives will discuss the town’s progress toward carbon-emission reduction goals and what efforts are still needed to reach these results. The group is comprised of the Carbondale Board of Trustees, Carbondale Environmental Board, a citizen technical and financial advisory committee, CLEER, and the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE).

“Carbon fees harness market forces to encourage local investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Michael Hassig, former Carbondale mayor, said in a prepared statement. “We have to take what steps we can, now, right here in our own community, to reduce fossil fuel consumption.”

In 2010, Carbondale set the goals of increasing energy efficiency by 20 percent; reducing petroleum consumption 25 percent; and obtaining 35 percent of energy from renewable sources all by 2020. These figures are measured off of a 2009 baseline.

One scenario calculates that by installing energy-saving measures in 1,200 homes and in 60 businesses, combined with doubling the amount of solar electric systems (or the equivalent of 800 kilowatts of power-generating capacity), Carbondale could meet its targets, according to CLEER’s website. These energy improvements could be achieved by investing $1.1 million per year over the next five years.

The Carbondale trustees adopted a resolution in 2014 that dedicates 20 percent of the town’s state severance tax and federal mineral lease revenues to help reach clean-energy goals. Traditionally, funding from federal and state government grants, the town’s general fund, the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (generated through building fees in Pitkin County and Aspen) and utilities have been used toward energy efficiency.

But the federal and state grants have since dried up, necessitating another path forward to raise revenue.

Proposed uses for the fund include cash-back rebates for clean energy upgrades to homes and businesses; the continuation and expansion of a home energy efficiency program; and a large-scale community project, such as a solar farm, electric circulator buses, upgrades to make town buildings net-zero, or a local electricity micro-grid with battery storage, the statement added.

“The fee is simple: use more electricity or natural gas and you pay a higher fee. Reduce your energy use and your fee goes down,” Hassig said. “The money stays in Carbondale, creating a funding source that allows the entire community to make efficiency and clean energy upgrades. It’s a clear statement of our community values and an essential investment in our community’s future.”