THE GARFIELD COUNTY STORY
“Whatever exists is possible,” goes the saying – and CLEER’s success in Garfield County demonstrates what’s possible when climate action is placed in a frame of rural economic development.
CLEER’s work in Garfield County was born in 2008, in the early days of the Great Recession, when it led nine local governments to successfully apply for federal stimulus funding via the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. Armed with a state grant and local matching funding, the partner governments formed the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative. They then hired CLEER to undertake a county-wide analysis of energy usage and to develop a range of programs to help households, businesses and the local government partners save money by saving energy. In 2011, CLEER encouraged the local government partners to form Garfield Clean Energy, Colorado’s first clean-energy authority.
Since then, CLEER has delivered the programs and services of Garfield Clean Energy under an annual contract. But CLEER is much more than just a contractor. As a nonprofit, it has dedicated itself to making the collaborative’s programs successful, popular, and replicable in other communities in Colorado and beyond.
Measurable results are vital. CLEER’s work with Garfield Clean Energy also unites the community to achieve clean energy goals.
- An award-winning set of bang-for-the buck programs that help local governments’ and taxpayers’ bottom lines.
- A suite of supporting tools – including energy coaching, CLEER’s Building Energy Navigator, and professional trainings.
- An “energy innovation” messaging frame that focuses on economic resilience and diversification, and emphasizes the benefits of investing in energy efficiency and renewables regardless of climate considerations. This works particularly well in a region with a heritage of energy production.
- A pragmatic, non-ideological approach that respectfully challenges elected officials to set ambitious targets.
A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH
CLEER has developed an approach for achieving significant emissions reductions – and enthusiastic buy-in – that includes the following strategies:
- Catalyze change by inspiring and challenging community leaders to take action, and building political will for it.
- Identify and remove the barriers – financial, institutional, psychological – that keep us from switching to cleaner, more efficient options.
- Measure what you want to change to establish a baseline for setting goals and monitoring progress.
- Focus on the economic and community benefits of saving energy (not on climate change).
- Mainstream clean and renewable energy through marketing, media, events and lots of coaching.
- Tell stories and celebrate successes to inspire more participation.
- Replicate the model in other parts of rural Colorado and across the country.