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Levers for Change aims to stimulate ideas to accelerate decarbonization

Colorado-based organizations are well represented among the five finalists for an inaugural $10 million award launched last year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in buildings, industry, and/or transportation sectors by 2030.

The Lever for Change, using money from an anonymous donor, points out that these sectors account for more than half of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

First Statewide Virtual Power Plant: Equitable Transition in Clean Energy

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, of Golden, and Boulder-based Resource Media are part of a proposal to push the pedal to the floor on an inclusive financing tool that enables home energy upgrades to reach mass scale by assuring all households can participate regardless of their income, credit score, or renter status.

“It will create the first demonstration for the nation of full statewide residential sector decarbonization and creation of a statewide virtual power plant—all through equitable energy transition,” the team says. The team also includes Solar United Neighbors and Liberty Homes, both of whom have a presence in Colorado.

 Scale Zero: Healthy, Zero-Emission, Affordable Housing for All

Boulder-based Rocky Mountain Institute has a proposal focused on accelerating the pace of building retrofits in 5 states through a program called Scale Zero that seeks to build coalitions of supporters to influence regulatory, legislative, and utility programs that drive market-demand for zero-emission buildings.

“Our implementation efforts will focus on catalyzing thousands of affordable, multifamily housing retrofits,” RMI’s summary says. “By prioritizing historically marginalized communities, we ensure that they benefit first from the health and economic advantages of zero-emission buildings. Building on our existing work and deep expertise, we will push the market towards a “tipping point” that leads to catalytic national transformation.”

Building with Biomass: Using Buildings to Sequester Carbon at Gigaton-Scale

The University of Colorado is part of a team led by the Carbon Leadership Forum at the University of Washington that proposes to use biogenic building materials and to reduce carbon emissions in all other buildings in order to make buildings into carbon sinks.

Two others among the 68 applications made the final cut. Applications were based on 4 criteria: whether they were impactful, feasible, scalable, and durable.

This is from Big Pivots, an e-magazine tracking the energy and water transitions in Colorado and beyond. Subscribe at

The two other finalists: One would accelerating transportation electrification in the Southeast, and the second aim to drive investments in technology, markets, and policy to double industrial renewable thermal energy by 2030.

“While the world is rolling out a rapid response to the coronavirus pandemic, there is no vaccine for climate change,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change.

Lever for Change is modeled on the MacArthur Foundation’s $100 million competition called 100&Change program. A companion effort is the Bold Solutions Network, which seeks to match donors with nonprofits and social enterprises.

Allen Best
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