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Aspen wants to pick up the pace on squeezing emissions from buildings

Elected officials in Aspen have agreed they want to move forward more briskly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by the building sector.

The Aspen Times reported that city council members at a work session agreed on the need for a more aggressive building code for Aspen to meet the goal of its Climate Action Plan. That plan seeks to reduction emissions 80% by 2050.

A city inventory found that buildings cause 58% of emissions in Aspen.

Past efforts have caused a decline in building emissions. For example, natural gas emissions declined 3% between 2004 and 2017, despite significant construction. That is also true nationally.

The idea pitched to city council members is to require more rigorous efficiency, so that code requirements cannot be met simply by adding more solar panels.

But the discussion also includes the lifecycle emissions of buildings. This would include consideration of the emissions generated during the harvesting, manufacture and transport of building materials—and then the emissions produced when the building materials end up in the landfill.

Council members, reported the Times, said they want the city to up its game in curtailing construction and demolition waste.

No timeline has been established, but the code will move ahead of the most aggressive national codes. Pitkin County similarly adopted regulations in 2020 that advanced requirements.

Pueblo County resident worries about possible solar heat island effect

Pueblo County has among the most sunshine of any place in Colorado. It ranks at 7 or 8 on a scale of 10 in the national matrix, says the developer of a 300-megawatt solar farm being developed by Lightsource BP to supply Evraz, the steel mill.

But is there too much of a good thing?

That was the question posed by a resident of Lakeside Manor Estates, a housing subdivision of 70 properties located south of Pueblo. The first big solar farm was adjacent to the Comanche power plant, and at the time of development was the largest east of the Rocky Mountains. Then came the Evraz project and another called Bighorn Solar.

Now comes the Pronghorn Solar Park, which is proposed to have 150 megawatts spread across 800 acres adjacent to the housing development.

The Pueblo Chieftain reports fears of what 74-year-old Alan Gasscock describes as a “solar oven.”

“I am a proponent of solar. In fact, I have solar panels on my property. But this is a massive array,” Glasscock said. Solar panels will be built to a maximum of 15 feet high.

At a public hearing, Glasscock voiced concerns about what he said would be the 130 to 140 degrees of heat radiating from the panels.

A representative of Leeward Renewable Energy, the project developer, discounted the worry about a heat island effect outside of the project’s border. Kevin Adelman said the thin solar modules dissipate the heat quickly and a vegetative border of trees and shrubs will further shield residents from dissipating heat. Glasscock was unpersuaded, citing the high-water requirements needed in Pueblo County’s hot, arid environment.

Delta-Montrose reports improved bottom line after 2020 switch

Kit Carson Electric left Tri-State Generation and Transmission in 2016 and has never looked back. Now, Delta-Montrose Electric reports the same story.

The electrical cooperative reported last week that the 2020 adjusted net operating margins exceeded $4.3 million, more than double those in 2019 and the best since 2014.

Power supply costs decreased by more than $2.7 million compared to 2019. The cooperative purchased roughly the same amount of electricity in both years.

Tri-State supplied the wholesale power in all of 2019 and the first half of 2020. In

the latter half of 2020, Delta-Montrose got its electricity from Guzman Energy, the same Denver-based wholesale provider that began supplying Kit Carson in 2016.

As it did with Kit Carson, Guzman has started helping Delta-Montrose expand its local electrical generating capacity, primarily solar.

Is there a story beyond this story—perhaps something else that explains the improved financial picture of Delta-Montrose? Possibly.

But the real story here is one that cannot yet be reported. What will the managers and directors of the cooperatives in western Nebraska and elsewhere who are evaluating their options—including exiting from Tri-State—think of this latest news?

Tri-State recently lowered its wholesale power costs to member cooperatives by 2%.

Solar and storage sector applauds decisions by the Colorado PUC

The solar and storage industry in Colorado registered what it called a success with a decision by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

The PUC decision will make it faster and easier to connect solar + storage systems to the grid, said the Colorado Solar and Storage Association in a statement released along with the national trade group, Solar Energy Industries Association.

The two groups had asked the PUC to reevaluate interconnection rules that had resulted in unnecessary confusion for solar + storage customers in Colorado. The PUC decision will help to drive deployment innovation and provide much needed transparency and predictability for customers and solar installers across Colorado.

The PUC decisions, among other things, will allow solar + storage customers to draw from their solar energy system or from the grid and empower them to use the stored energy whenever and however they want.

“The interconnection proceeding lasted over 2 years, and many stakeholders worked hard to modernize Colorado’s electrical grid,” said Mike Kruger, chief executive of the Colorado trade group. “We believe that the final result will ensure that customers have a clear path to installing more solar and energy storage, especially if the PUC approves incentives for deployment.”

Solar had grown to 4% of Colorado’s total electrical generation in 2020.

Colorado Newsline: Why is Garrison Kaufman still top air regulator in state?

Why does Garry Kaufman, Colorado’s top air pollution regulation, still have a job, wondered Colorado Newsline.

“Coloradans might once have viewed the state as at least honest in trying to regulate polluters, even if it was often ineffective,” said Newsline’s Quentin Young, the editor, in a May 14 op/ed. “But its failures are so persistent, the matter is so critical, and the cause for distrust is so deep that new leadership is necessary. Garry Kaufman, the top official at the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, can no longer effectively lead the agency and should be replaced.”

Three whistle-blowers in a late March complaint alleged that “senior officials instructed employees to ignore modeling requirements mandated by the EPA under the federal Clean Air Act and, in at least one case, ordered a modeler to falsify data in order to ensure that no violations of air-quality standards were reported.”

This is from Big Pivots, an e-journal that tracks the energy and water transitions in Colorado and beyond. To subscribe, go to BigPivots.com.

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