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Clean Energy Economy for the Region

December 17, 2015, Vol. 8, No. 9

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Carbondale proposing a price on carbon

Trustees consider fee on gas, electric bills for April 2016 ballot

While world leaders signed a history-making climate pact in Paris on Dec. 12, the Carbondale Board of Trustees moved forward Tuesday on important next steps for realizing the goals of the international climate agreement: putting a price on carbon, and maximizing energy efficiency and clean energy at the local level.

The trustees, working with a coalition of organizations, are moving toward putting a carbon fee on the town’s April ballot.

“What better place than a town called Carbondale to implement a local carbon fee, and put talk into action?” asked Mayor Stacey P. Bernot.

The proposed fee would be applied to natural gas and electric bills, based on actual monthly energy usage, over the next five years. It would generate an estimated $300,000 per year, to be used to accelerate energy efficiency and renewable energy projects by the town government and by households and businesses.

“Carbon fees harness market forces to encourage local investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said Michael Hassig, a former mayor.

The trustees are slated to take a formal vote at their Jan. 13 meeting on whether to place the carbon fee question before voters. The town election is April 3.

On Tuesday, the trustees set proposed rates for the fee and reviewed draft ballot language prepared by town attorney Mark Hamilton. The trustees instructed Hamilton to discuss the proposal with the three energy utilities that serve Carbondale -- Holy Cross Energy, Xcel Energy and SourceGas -- to be sure they can be ready to apply the fee on the proposed July 1, 2016, start date.

The proposed rates are different for residential and commercial customers:

  • Residential: 0.8 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity and 3.5 cents per therm of natural gas, estimated to to range from $3 to $7 per month for households

  • Commercial: 0.29 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity and 2 cents per therm of natural gas, estimated to be $10 to $40 per month for most businesses. The commercial rate would also apply to government buildings and schools.

The carbon fee concept has been developed over the past two years by the Carbondale 2020 coalition, which includes the Board of Trustees, the Carbondale Environmental Board and the 2020 Technical and Financial Advisory Committee (TFAC), with assistance from CLEER and CORE staff.

The Carbondale 2020 name refers to energy efficiency, renewable energy and petroleum reduction goals set to be achieved by 2020. The Carbondale 2020 TFAC has been analyzing the investment levels needed to meet those climate goals, and evaluating the means to fund or incentivize those investments.

In 2014, the group worked with the Board of Trustees on a policy to dedicate 20 percent of the town’s state severance tax and federal mineral lease revenues to help the town reach its clean energy goals.

The proposed carbon fee is the next step in this effort.

“The fee is simple,” said Hassig, a TFAC member. “Use more electricity or natural gas and you pay a higher fee. Reduce your energy use and your fee goes down.

“The money stays in Carbondale, creating a funding source that allows the entire community to make efficiency and clean energy upgrades. We have to take what steps we can, now, right here in our own community, to reduce fossil fuel consumption,” Hassig added.

Some trustees and residents have expressed concern that the fee will impact low-income families, especially those living in homes with poor insulation, aging heating systems and leaky windows and doors.

One use of the revenues from the proposed carbon fee would be a strong program to upgrade homes occupied by low-income residents, which would lower both the fee and overall energy bills for those families.

Revenues from the carbon fee could also be used to fund cash-back rebates for clean energy upgrades to other homes and businesses, so everyone can make improvements that will lower their energy bills.

Revenues could also fund a grand-scale community project, such as a large solar farm, electric RFTA Circulator buses, or a local electricity micro-grid with battery storage to build community energy security.

In the news

Aspen Daily News, Dec. 8, 2015
Town of Carbondale seeking input on proposed energy bill carbon fee

Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Dec. 10, 2015
Carbondale considers a vote on carbon fee

The Daily Sentinel, Dec. 14, 2015
Carbondale floats idea of carbon tax

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Regional forum to explore transportation solutions

‘Mobility, Fuels and Funding Forum’ to look at trails, transit, highways and alternative fuels

Mobility Fuels and FundingConstruction is starting in January on the two-year Grand Avenue Bridge project. How can the Garfield-to-Pitkin region use this project as a launchpad to expand mobility, relieve congestion, reduce our dependence on the automobile and shift to lower-carbon fuels?

A one-day forum, “Mobility, Fuels and Funding: Exploring Transportation Solutions for the 21st Century,” will bring together community leaders to address these issues and envision smart transportation solutions for the future.

Speakers and panelists will discuss a regional vision for trails, multi-modal links to transit, functional streets and highways, regional travel patterns, options for infrastructure funding, a proposed state highway funding ballot question, and alternative vehicle fuels.

It’s set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5, at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs.

Registration is $35 in advance and includes morning refreshments and lunch. Reserve your seat at the transportation table today.

The forum is hosted by CLEER, RFTA and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, and sponsored by Garfield Clean Energy.

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Craig and Colleen Farnum with their Tesla EV

Breaking even on a $75,000 Tesla

Comparing ‘life-cycle’ costs of gasoline vs. electric
makes Tesla pencil out for local couple


Heather McGregor
Clean Energy Economy News


Craig and Colleen Farnum of Carbondale are a middle-class couple with professional jobs, a mortgage, school loans, and a nine-month-old daughter. They are also the owners of a Tesla Model S all-electric car, which has a 250-mile range and cost $75,000.

The couple ran the math back in 2013, comparing the long-term costs of Tesla ownership to that of a conventional gasoline vehicle. They started a savings plan, ran more calculations, and purchased the dark gray, five-passenger, all-wheel-drive Model S 70D in May 2015.

“We wanted to buy a long-range electric family car made in America, and there was only one option. So we made it a priority,” said Craig Farnum.

The couple’s commitment to an electric car started when they leased an all-electric Nissan Leaf in February 2013. It was Step 2 in their effort to reduce their carbon footprint.

“We looked at our behavior, and asked ourselves how we could make a difference,” Farnum said. They had already started by adopting a mostly vegetarian diet. Transportation was the next milestone.

“We wanted to have zero local emissions for all of our transportation. We leased the Nissan Leaf as a test. We saved so much money on it, because we had no maintenance and no operating costs.

“After the first month of driving the Leaf, we realized we could never turn back. We were committed. So we saved for two and a half years to make it happen,” said Farnum, who is a college counselor for Colorado Mountain College in Carbondale.

Farnum noted that even using electricity generated with a high percentage of coal, the carbon emissions from an electric vehicle (EV) are still less than even the most fuel-efficient gasoline models. And as the local and national electric grid shifts to more generation fueled by natural gas, wind and solar, harmful emissions from the electricity powering EVs will decrease even more.

The added benefits of the Tesla are a high safety rating, a 10-year warranty, free charging at Tesla facilities nationwide, and outstanding roadside service. Oh, and it’s a blast to drive.

Colleen and Craig Farnum“We love it. It’s such a joy to drive. It’s got a heated steering wheel, wipers and seats. It makes no noise. You can talk at a regular volume even when you’re going 75 to 80. And it’s fast,” Craig said.

During the week, Colleen uses the Tesla to commute from their home in Carbondale to her job as a physician’s assistant at Roaring Fork Gastroenterology in Glenwood Springs.

Colleen usually experiences two types of interactions with other drivers: those who want to talk about the car when it’s parked, and those who try to get out ahead of the Tesla on the highway once a stoplight turns green.

“If you floor it from a stop light, it looks like everyone else has just put their car in reverse,” Craig said. He noted that Colleen is a cautious driver who doesn’t drag race, but that zero-to-60 performance is always available.

They prefer to channel that power into hauling a load that includes their daughter’s car seat, four bicycles, luggage and other gear. With snow tires, the car handled well on a recent trip to Leadville through a foot of new snow.

And because there’s no engine or transmission, the space under the front hood is a second trunk. Farnum calls it the “frunk,” and it’s been known to double as a diaper-changing area on fair-weather road trips.

Figuring affordability through life-cycle comparisons

So, the Tesla is fun, clean, sleek and sporty. But how does a $75,000 car pencil out for a middle-class family? In a recent interview, Craig walked through the math.

It was a careful calculation done in the process of obtaining a loan to buy the car. The couple used the Alliant Credit Union, a Chicago-based lender that offered a 0 percent down, 2.2 percent, six-year loan for Tesla purchasers.

Although they had $18,000 in cash from selling their Toyota Tacoma pickup, the loan allowed them to finance the entire purchase price of the Tesla. Instead, they used the cash to remodel the basement of their home into a small apartment. The monthly income from a tenant nearly covers the $1,100-a-month auto loan payment.

The $75,000 purchase price is lowered by federal and state tax credits for EVs, which the Farnums will collect in early 2016, when they file their taxes. The tax credits total $13,500, bringing the net cost of the vehicle to $61,500.

Next, Farnum compared what are called “life cycle” costs – the comparative costs of operating a vehicle over the next five to 10 years.

He estimates that a conventional gasoline vehicle will cost about $4,000 per year to operate and maintain: gasoline, oil changes, preventive maintenance for the engine and transmission. This compares to about $20 a month, or $240 a year, in higher electric bills for charging the vehicle.

“The only maintenance costs are tires and windshield wipers,” Farnum said.

Over the five-year loan period, Farnum estimates he will save $20,000 in operation and maintenance costs, lowering the comparative cost of the Tesla to $41,500. That brings the Tesla into the price range of a new Audi or Volvo sedan or wagon.

In years six through 10, once the car loan is paid off, operation and maintenance costs will be minimal. That’s when the savings will pile up.

Farnum noted that the initial car registration fee was $4,000, because of the high sticker price on the car. Insurance runs about $1,200 per year.

Getting past ‘range anxiety’ with EV charging

The Farnums usually charge their Tesla at home, once or twice a week, using a Level 2 charger they installed in their garage for the Leaf back in 2013. They can also charge the Tesla at any public charging station.

“When we bought our Leaf in early 2013, there was just one charging station in the area, at Carbondale Town Hall. Now they are all over. The charging infrastructure in this area is exceptional, and that’s thanks to the efforts of CLEER and CORE,” Farnum said.

“I’m really proud that Colorado Mountain College will soon have EV charging at nearly all 11 campuses,” he added.

Tesla is building a network of Super-Charger stations on major highways across the country, with 562 stations in the U.S. and southern Canada. The charger, free to Tesla owners, delivers an 80 percent fill in 40 minutes and a 100 percent fill in one hour 15 minutes.

To test out the whole system – the Tesla’s range and charging stations in the West -- the family took a road trip in October to Eureka, Mont., just nine miles south of the Canadian border.

The car’s dashboard navigation system guided them to charging stations along the way. It also calculated how many miles the current charge would last.

“It calculates the weight in the car, the elevation gain and loss of the route. So we had to have the car all packed up – the three of us, the dog, our luggage and four bikes – for the car to calculate,” Farnum said.

“We would drive about three hours and then stop and charge for 45 to 60 minutes. That charging time was our family time. We’d go to a park, take a walk, eat lunch,” he recalled.

There was one gap in the SuperCharger network between Tremonton, Utah, and Butte, Mont. A physician in Idaho Falls, Idaho, who also owns a Tesla, offers free charging at a Level 2 station in the clinic’s parking lot.

“We had to stay there all day,” Farnum recalled. But Tesla is installing about 300 charge stations per year, so that gap on I-15 in Idaho may close soon.

Second car to be all-electric too

The Farnums do have a second car, a 1994, 40-mpg Saturn sedan. It’s been an economical back-up vehicle, but it’s powered by gasoline, and the Farnums feel they can do better.

“If people don’t start buying electric cars, we will continue to kick the ‘gas’ can down the road. This is voting – with your dollars,” he said.

They are shopping now for a used Leaf to use as their around-town second car. Farnum noted that the market is not yet strong for used Leafs, with purchase prices ranging from $8,000 to $10,000.

With a used Leaf parked along their Tesla, they will have hit their transportation milestone. Next up? Installing solar panels at their home.

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Home Energy Program keeping families warm

Energy upgrades for income-qualified households will continue in 2016

Heather McGregor
Clean Energy Economy News


Cari Kaplan says participating in the 2015 Home Energy Program has made a big difference in the comfort of her home, especially as cold winter temperatures set in.

Through the program, the basement of Kaplan’s Morrison Street home got two new thermal windows, foam insulation on the concrete walls, and an enclosure for the furnace – all helping to make the chilly downstairs living space warm and comfortable.

Kaplan made several improvements to her home after buying it in 2007, when her income was higher. Now her income from her mobile dog-washing business, the Dog Laundry, is limited. As a result, she qualified for the 2015 Home Energy Program.

Kaplan got her first visit from CLEER energy coaches Maisa Metcalf and Matt Shmigelsky in March. They installed CFL and LED light bulbs, pipe wrap, a water heater blanket, faucet aerators and a carbon monoxide detector. Follow-up projects continued through the summer and fall by two local companies, Rich Backe’s Building Performance Contractors and Bob and Mary Layman’s Woodpecker Workshop.

Kaplan is one of 15 residents in Carbondale to benefit from the 2015 Home Energy Program. It is a joint project of CLEER, Garfield Clean Energy, Town of Carbondale, Energy Outreach Colorado, SourceGas, Xcel Energy and Holy Cross Energy. Most of the participants have received the energy upgrades at no cost; some have shared the cost for projects.

The program served 54 income-qualified families and seniors throughout Garfield County in 2015, said Metcalf, who also manages the program for CLEER. Extra funding from the Town of Carbondale allowed more households in the town to be served, she said.

Kaplan added, “I am so proud of our town to have put money into this. I have been telling everybody about this program.”

Julia Farwell, a CMC student who works three jobs to stay afloat in Carbondale, also qualified for the program. The CLEER energy coaches recommended what’s called a crawl-space encapsulation for Farwell’s North 7th Street home, which she purchased in 2001.

The job, done by Dennis Brachfeld and Scott Mills with About Saving Heat, included insulating the crawl space walls, laying an impermeable vapor barrier across the earthen floor and sealing cracks with foam or caulk. The vapor barrier and sealing counteracts the cooling, evaporative effects of the earth underlying her home.

“My floors are definitely warmer,” Farwell said, noticing an immediate difference in the first month since the work was done. “You could stand on the tile floor in kitchen and feel cold air rushing at your ankles. It’s not like that anymore.”

It also takes less time to get hot water from the faucets because the crawl space is not so cold, she said.

Program renewed for 2016

Building on the success of the 2015 program, Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC) recently awarded a $70,000 grant to CLEER to continue the program in 2016 for income-qualified families and seniors in Garfield County.

The funding will pay for home energy visits by CLEER’s energy consultants with on-the-spot energy upgrades for 30 to 50 families in Garfield County.

After the visits, Metcalf will coordinate with contractors for other needed upgrades, such as insulation, windows, doors, energy efficient water heaters and refrigerators, and tune-ups for furnaces and boilers.

CLEER’s success with the 2015 program in Carbondale and Garfield County also led EOC to expand the concept in northwest Colorado. The Denver-based agency awarded a total of $335,000 to CLEER, CORE and four other community-based organizations to offer energy upgrades for at least 240 households in a seven-county region, according to Luke Ilderton, director of energy efficiency programs for EOC.

“This is the first time that EOC has implemented an energy upgrade program in the mountain region. CLEER’s 2015 program was the pilot,” said Metcalf. “Once that success was proven, EOC opened the program to other organizations for 2016.”

CLEER is also working with EOC to provide training for the other community organizations. The regional program will serve income-qualified families and seniors in Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle, Lake, Summit, Routt and Moffat counties.

“We are making a difference in people’s lives, while saving energy and helping meet our climate goals,” Metcalf said.

Ilderton said EOC has collaborated for years with the City of Denver on weatherization programs for income-qualified families.

“These programs have kept seniors in their homes, allowed families to better afford their home energy costs, and preserved some of the more affordable rental housing for working families and seniors on fixed incomes,” Ilderton said.

“We hope to accomplish the same goals in the mountains, as many mountain communities are faced with the same challenges.”

To learn more about the Home Energy Program for 2016, visit GarfieldCleanEnergy.org, and look for “Options for income-qualified households” under the “Residential” tab.

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Battlement Mesa solar array ribbon-cutting

Solar array powering Battlement Mesa water plant

Ribbon cutting celebrates clean energy project

Heather McGregor
Clean Energy Economy News


Bill Nelson and Michelle Foster, members of the Battlement Mesa Metro District board, cut a bright yellow ribbon Nov. 19 to celebrate the completion of a solar array that will power the district’s water treatment plant.

“I am pleased with the fact that we have clean energy involved here. Solar is a wonderful source of energy,” said Nelson.

The array of 1,422 panels, rated at 440 kilowatts, will power 100 percent of the water treatment plant’s electrical demand on a yearly basis. Battlement’s is the fourth water plant in Garfield County to be net-zero for electricity, along with plants in Rifle, Silt and Carbondale.

“Solar energy is good for Garfield County,” said Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, noting that solar arrays create employment and pay for themselves with energy production.

“Renewable energy diversifies and builds the economy,” said Stuart McArthur, Parachute Town Administrator and chair of Garfield Clean Energy.

McArthur noted that GCE hosted a workshop in 2014 for local governments to learn about ways to finance large solar arrays with no upfront cost.

“The Metro District attended that workshop, and they caught the vision. We are excited to see that leadership in western Garfield County,” he added.

Sunsense Solar of Carbondale installed the array, with rack foundation and fencing done by Lyons Fencing of Silt and additional electrical work by Expert Electric of Rifle.

Sunforce Solutions of San Francisco arranged the power purchase agreement that financed the project, and the array is now owned by Samuel Engineering of Englewood.

The Battlement Mesa Metro District will buy power from the array through a 20-year contract with Samuel Engineering, locking in electric costs and saving an estimated $200,000 over the term.

“We are happy to make Battlement Mesa able to show fiscal responsibility and environmental stewardship,” said Philipp Herzog, CEO of Sunforce Solutions.

John Shinnick of Samuel Engineering said the company is growing with clean energy investments. He noted that Samuel also owns the Silt water plant array and will own the array currently under construction at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.

Together, the Battlement, Silt and RFHS arrays are adding 1 megawatt of solar capacity in Garfield County, bringing the tally for government-owned solar to 4.6 megawatts countywide. The three new arrays are valued at $2 million.

Steve Rippy, the metro district’s general manager, said the installation went smoothly, and he credited the installation and finance teams with being “great to work with.”

Rippy also recognized metro district staffers Roger Bulla, Kathy Miller and Rich Kilgroe for their work in coordinating the project.

Scott Ely, president of Sunsense Solar, said his company is in its 26th year installing solar systems across western Colorado.

“We were glad to work on this project. Everybody has been helpful and easy to work with,” Ely said. He recognized Sunsense site supervisor Mark Item and crew leader Kevin Lundy for keeping the project on track.

With the projects in Silt, Battlement and Carbondale running consecutively over the past 18 months, Ely said Sunsense expanded its workforce by 50 percent in 2015, addition seven new full-time workers.

Ely noted that Sunsense also employed several temporary workers for the Battlement project, including Mark Martinez, a Parachute resident. During the project, Ely hired Martinez for a full-time permanent job with Sunsense. Martinez will be working on the company’s next big job, a second large community solar garden at the Garfield County Airport in Rifle.

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Colorado launches statewide lending program
for commercial properties

CoPACE offers new tool to finance energy efficiency,
water conservation, renewable energy projects

Colorado Energy Office news release

On Dec. 1, the Colorado New Energy Improvement District launched a statewide commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program, providing commercial property owners a unique mechanism to finance energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water-conservation improvements.

CPACE logoEligible properties include office buildings, hotels, retail, agricultural, non-profits, industrial buildings and multi-family properties with five or more units.

Projects must be located in counties that have opted to participate in the program. Boulder County has opted-in, and an opt-in resolution is expected to come before the Garfield County Commissioners in the coming weeks. Several other county governments around the state have indicated they plan to participate too.

The C-PACE program offers commercial property owners the opportunity to spread energy and water project costs over a term of up to 20 years, and repay them through an assessment on their property tax bill, with no upfront capital outlay.

"Commercial buildings currently account for about 20 percent of Colorado's energy use. Colorado's commercial PACE program offers a financial tool to help spur energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in our state's building infrastructure, providing long-term utility savings, while stimulating the economy," said Paul Scharfenberger, chairman of the New Energy Improvement District board.

The program provides financing for a variety of improvements, including new heating or cooling systems, lighting, water pumps, insulation, solar panels and other renewable energy projects.

Typical long term C-PACE financing covers 100 percent of a project's cost. It is repaid, for up to 20 years, in semi-annual payments that are structured as a regular line item on the property tax bill.

When a property is sold, the PACE assessment stays with the property and transfers to the new owner who, in turn, enjoys the ongoing utility cost-savings associated with the project.

Sustainable Real Estate Solutions (SRS) was competitively selected as the Colorado C-PACE administrator. SRS will oversee an open, competitive lending model that makes it possible for a wide variety of capital providers to participate. All projects will be financed entirely with private funds, allowing local lenders, national banks and PACE capital providers an opportunity to finance projects.

"C-PACE provides commercial and industrial building owners an attractive way to finance capital intensive building modernization projects. The resulting energy savings typically outweigh the annual assessment payment, thereby enabling cash-flow-positive projects," said Brian J. McCarter, CEO of SRS, administrator for the Colorado C-PACE program.

For more information or to apply for C-PACE financing, visit the Colorado C-PACE website at COPACE.com.

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Alpine Bank and Holy Cross Energy

Many thanks to Alpine Bank
Holy Cross Energy
and the Ruth Brown Foundation
for their generous gifts to CLEER.

Their support helps make CLEER's work on increasing energy efficiency possible.

Special thanks to our
2016 Colorado Gives Day donors

Rachel Richards
David Gordon
Greg & Sean Jeung
Rich Backe
Nancy Genova
Ryan Gearhart
Kelcey Nichols
Rob Morey
Diane Smith
Ann Hopkinson


In this issue

Carbondale proposing a price on carbon

Regional forum to explore transportation solutions

Breaking even on a $75,000 Tesla

Home Energy Program keeping Carbondale families warm

Solar array powering Battlement Mesa Metro District water plant

Colorado launches statewide lending program for commercial properties

Facility managers tour RMI's
Innovation Center in Basalt

Forecasts for this winter’s El Niño posted in webcast, Climate Dashboard

DOE’s 2016 Fuel Economy Guide highlights efficient vehicles

Solar tax credit extension included in federal omnibus budget bill

DOE: U.S. clean energy technologies accelerating


Submit your news and events to
Clean Energy Economy News

Clean Energy Economy News accepts news, events and training information related to clean energy and sustainability for monthly publication. Send your items to Editor Heather McGregor at news@cleanenergyeconomy.net


RMI Innovation Center

Facility managers tour RMI’s Innovation Center

Basalt office and conference center has no furnace

Garfield Clean Energy, CLEER and Rocky Mountain Institute hosted a tour for facility managers at RMI’s Innovation Center under construction in Basalt.

The Nov. 9 tour and follow-up roundtable conversation drew 20 participants, including staff from GCE members Garfield County and Colorado Mountain College. The educational event gives government and private sector building managers in the region a chance to connect and share best practices.

RMI’s Innovation Center is a 15,000 square foot office building and conference center that uses state of the art design and materials for energy efficiency. The building has a robust ventilation system but no furnace, boiler or chiller.

Those attending were most interested in the building envelope, insulation, high-tech windows and exterior window shades, ventilation and air flow, building controls, and new materials such as a gel substance that absorbs heat and helps keep the building cool.

After the tour, the group went to Basalt Town Hall for a roundtable discussion. The conversation included the building’s cost, the ongoing struggle between capital costs of a new building vs. operating costs over time, trusting new technology, and the desire to use new technology when it’s coupled with training support.

The group also discussed how to develop an organizational culture that values energy efficiency, and what factors motivate an organization to build that culture, such as cost savings or environmental benefits.

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Western Water Assessment precipitation map

30-day precipitation as a percent of average, Nov. 11 to Dec. 12, 2015

Forecasts for this winter’s El Niño posted in webcast, Climate Dashboard

CU Boulder’s weather science website pulls together temp,
precip and forecast resources

Attention map and weather geeks. Western Water Assessment (WWA), a weather science center based at the University of Colorado Boulder, has posted useful tools on its website aimed at forecasting the El Niño weather pattern for this winter and next spring.

On Oct. 23, WWA and NOAA convened a panel of experts to discuss what El Niño is and what it does, past El Niño impacts across Colorado, and what kind of weather we might expect in Colorado this fall, winter and spring.

The archived webcast can be accessed here (forward to the 3:10 mark). The briefing and discussion were based on a two-page El Niño briefing document.

WWA’s website also hosts an Intermountain West Climate Dashboard. This page displays 29 climate and water information graphics for our region, including 12 that are updated daily.

The graphics include maps on temperature, precipitation, snowpack, drought, streamflow, reservoir storage, and weather forecasts. The page also offers a monthly narrative briefing from WWA and NOAA forecasters.

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Fuel Economy Guide

DOE’s 2016 Fuel Economy Guide highlights efficient vehicles

The U.S. Department of Energy’s 2016 Fuel Economy Guide is now available online to help consumers choose the most fuel-efficient vehicles that will meet their needs.

From fuel-sippers to gas-guzzlers, the guide lists fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions, and projected annual fuel costs for model year 2016 light-duty cars and trucks.

The guide also includes “best-in-class” lists across multiple market categories. Whether a buyer is looking for a two-seater or a large pickup truck, they can find out which vehicles can save them money and fuel.

This year’s Top 10 lists place the Chevrolet Spark EV as the most efficient all-electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt as the most efficient plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, and the Toyota Prius C as the most efficient non-plug-in electric vehicle.

Visit the Fuel Economy Guide home page.

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Solar tax credit extension included in federal omnibus budget bill

Five-year extension will allow U.S. solar capacity to triple, says SEIA CEO

A five-year extension of the federal tax credit for solar energy has been included in the proposed federal budget bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, now moving through Congress.

The Investment Tax Credit for solar energy was slated to drop from 30 percent to zero for residential installations, and from 30 percent to 10 percent for commercial installations on Dec. 31, 2016.

The proposed extension would cover residential and commercial installations through 2021, with the credit remaining at 30 percent through 2019, then falling to 26 percent in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021.

“This bipartisan agreement represents a powerful victory for our industry, and will provide a stable investment environment for the next eight years,” said Rhone Resch, CEO of the Solar Energy Industry Association.

Resch said the tax credits extension will allow solar power to triple by 2022, hitting 95 gigawatts of generation capacity. That’s enough to power 19 million homes, and represents 3.5 percent of U.S. electricity generation -- up from 0.1 percent in 2010.

That level of solar investment will offset 100 million metric tons of CO2 annually - equivalent to the emissions from 26 typical coal-fired power plants.

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DOE solar panels

DOE: U.S. clean energy technologies accelerating

The U.S. Department of Energy has just released its “2015 Revolution…Now” report, detailing the state of clean energy technologies in the U.S. that provide technology solutions to climate change.

The updated report shows dramatically increasing deployment and decreasing costs for four technologies: wind turbines, solar, electric vehicles (EVs), and light-emitting diode (LED) lighting.

The 2015 update shows that impressive cost reductions continue to drive adoption of clean energy technologies.

The report covers the rapid growth of photovoltaic (PV) solar modules for both large, utility-scale PV plants and smaller, rooftop, distributed PV systems that have achieved significant deployment nationwide.

The findings include:

-- Between 2008 and 2014, land-based wind energy accounted for 31% of all new installed U.S. generation capacity, in part due to early investments from DOE.

-- By 2014, more than 8 gigawatts of distributed solar PV were installed, which is enough to power roughly 1 million American homes.

-- An average electric vehicle reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 48% compared to a gasoline-powered car. The emissions avoided by the nearly 300,000 EVs sold in the U.S. through 2014 is equivalent to taking nearly 150,000 gasoline-powered cars off the road.

-- A total of 78 million LED bulbs have been installed through 2014, a six-fold increase since 2012.

See the Energy Department news release or download the full report.

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