Archive for the Follow the money Category
On Tuesday, April 8, the Boulder city council held a study session to get up to date on the city’s progress toward meeting the goals of the Kyoto Protocol and Boulder’s climate action plan.
This was a great opportunity to see what each council member thinks of how Boulder’s doing so far on addressing climate change. I took lots of notes, and will be presenting in a series of posts what each council member had to say at this meeting.
First, here’s the big picture:
Falling far short, so far. According to presentations by Jonathan Koehn and Sarah Van Pelt of the Dept. of Environmental Affairs (backed up by the memorandum they submitted with the study session materials), as things now stand Boulder will not meet the Kyoto Protocol goals by 2012. In fact, at this pace we’ll miss it by nearly half (48%).
That explains why the council has been nudging the Climate Smart program team to get more aggressive.
|Memorandum, Boulder city council study session, Apr. 8, 2008
|At the current pace, Boulder will fall short of its Kyoto Protocol goal by 48%.
The good news is, DEA staff presented a catch-up plan intended to bring the city much closer to meeting the Kyoto goals, and council seemed mostly supportive…
The folks at ClimateSmart tell us that their Climate Action Plan (CAP) is right on budget — they’ve spent about $860k and ended up getting just about the same amount from the carbon tax. That’s quite a feat in and of itself, as we can probably all appreciate here in the tail end of tax season.
They’ve also put out a progress report (PDF), which we’ve gone ahead and looked at. One of the interesting parts was a breakdown of greenhouse gas emissions by sector, which showed this:
- Commercial: 58%
- Transportation: 22%
- Residential: 16%
- Solid waste: 4%
Obviously, the commercial sector should be a big focus of the program. And it seems to have been. The progress report explained that the costs and average payback time — that is, the time after which infrastructure changes will have saved enough in energy costs to pay for themselves — have gone up because of “the inclusion of projects which tend to carry higher costs such as heating and cooling system replacements.”
Here’s the assessment of the building performance program, as found in the progress report:
It looks good — like businesses are starting to think more long-term. But the progress report carries on for much longer about residential programs than about commercial programs. While residential programs are important, if a business changes its ways, there’s a bigger impact. It would be great to go into more detail on just how green investments impact the bottom line, and outline some of the changes made by businesses listed in the project report.
We’d love to hear — in the comments or on the forum — from businesses who participated in the project report on how they convinced themselves or their accountants or whomever that they should spend now, save now and save later.
Tonight, Boulder’s ClimateSmart team will be hosting a community dialogue on the city’s response to climate change (get the details here). Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker plans to be at the event, which appears aimed at generating some grassroots support, using volunteers to leverage community action and help change behaviors that contribute to Boulder’s carbon footprint.
The city plans to document the ideas that come up and share them with those who attend, or who take an online survey. That sounds like a great way to encourage dialogue about the effort by, as ClimateSmart’s Beth Powell suggested in a comment on our site last week, bringing people together both in virtual terms and in real, physical ones.
Another way to encourage dialogue is to provide as much information about the scope of the program as possible, to help the community understand how well it has succeeded. So, for instance, we’ll be asking the city to provide up-to-date data about how much revenue Xcel Energy has raised for the city so far through the carbon tax, as well as request an account of how this money has been spent so far.
Another important question: Now that Gov. Ritter has proposed a climate action plan for state, we’re wondering how the city’s existing plan might fit in with the one being developed for Colorado as a whole?
While tonight’s gathering might not be able to get deeply, if at all, into these questions, we think they’re ones that need to be asked, and answered, in order for the community to understand and participate in the program more fully.
The Colorado Carbon Fund (a new carbon offset program from the Governor’s Energy Office that will fund energy efficiency, renewable energy and greenhouse gas mitigation projects throughout the state) is ramping up. On Feb. 14 the state issued a request for proposals seeking a “third party administrator” — a company that will manage the CCF on behalf of the state.
Interested parties will have to move fast. Inquiries are due 5 pm, Feb 29 (this Friday).
Recently I spoke with CCF program manager Susan Innis, who explained the process of deciding which projects will get funded — and who will buy the offset credits to pay for the projects…
The Colorado Carbon Fund, brainchild of the Governor’s Energy Office, seemed to become a more tangible, richer thing at the University of Colorado last week when CU pledged to spend about $50,000 on carbon offsets from the Fund. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter was even on hand to talk about it.
But what is it? Well, it’s an idea.
The Colorado Carbon Fund was started by the Governor’s Energy Office as a localized alternative to Renewable Energy Credits that would help Colorado make strides toward more voluntary environmentally-sound practices on a large scale.
Credits, which can be bought from middlemen like Community Energy, CU’s dealer over the past, function kind of like retroactive investments in renewable energy. For example, the credits that CU had been buying helped alleviate, in part, the startup costs of a wind farm in southeastern Colorado, according to Susan Innis, program manager of the Colorado Carbon Fund.
The new Carbon Fund functions differently. It’s designed to enable local entities like CU to help pay for local carbon offset projects. Innis gave the example of improving insulation in homes in Colorado to help preserve energy that would heat them.
“We obtain those carbon offsets from those projects and we would sell them to you,” Innis said. The functions of Renewable Energy Credits and the carbon offsets offered by the Colorado Carbon Fund are quite similar, in that they both provide money and encouragement for carbon-cutting measures, but the Colorado Carbon Fund would focus its efforts on local projects.
The CU Environmental Center learned about the Carbon Fund’s plans and opted not to renew their contract with Community Energy.
“We’re looking at a number of different certification standards and protocols for measuring,” Innis said. “There are some widely accepted methodologies for calculating greenhouse gas emissions.”
An advisory board that the Governor’s Energy Office will soon assemble will decide which standards to use, but three well-known programs they’re already looking at include the Gold Standard, the Voluntary Carbon Standard and the Green E Climate, she said.
More soon, as we talk to Dave Newport, director of the Environmental Center at CU.
Last Thursday, the University of Colorado, Boulder, was one of more than 1,000 colleges, universities, high schools and other educational institutions around the U.S. to participate in Focus the Nation’s national teach-in day.
Despite morning transit hassles caused by very icy roads after the mini-blizzard of the night before, I was able to make it over to the campus to check out a couple of CU’s events. (Here’s the full lineup of CU events.) I was a little late getting to Governor Bill Ritter’s kick-off talk, but I did catch most of his remarks.
As expected, Ritter touted the state’s Climate Action Plan, blue ribbon panel on transportation, his 2007 executive orders on greening state government, and (of course) the CU student government’s recent decision to shift $50,000 from wind energy credits to as-yet-unspecified carbon offset projects to be funded by the newly unveiled Colorado Carbon Fund.
The Governor’s Q&A was a bit more revealing…
|The lone residential utility rebate for Colorado I found on Xcel Energy’s web site today.
According to the city government’s Climate Action Plan, utility rebates are a key strategy to make energy-saving projects happen in Boulder, Colorado. These rebates are when our local utility, Xcel Energy, pays or reimburses part of the cost of energy-saving measures for residential, commercial and industrial customers — effectively lowering the cost and speeding the payback of these projects. The city expects Xcel to kick in, through rebates, more than $10.3 million toward the cost of local energy efficiency measures by 2012.
As I wrote earlier, Boulder doesn’t have a whole lot of time to meet its self-imposed goal of cutting its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2012. In order to achieve those savings on schedule, Boulderites must start saving energy now.
Utility rebates can help motivate individuals and organizations to take action to save energy — IF people know about them, and if the program rules and processes are simple enough to encourage participation (rather than cause confusion and frustration).
Those can be pretty big “ifs,” as I just found out when I visited Xcel’s web site…
On Tuesday I had lunch with Jay Stein, executive VP of E Source — a local information services company (sort of a think tank) for the energy industry. He’s one of Boulder’s leading experts on energy issues and projects, and their environmental impact.
As Stein and I discussed the Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker project, he pointed out one especially intriguing aspect of this issue. He observed that the 2002 city council resolution in which Boulder adopted the goals of the Kyoto Protocols (resolution 906) emphasized the principle of cost effectiveness. “It’s even in the resolution title, right up there. They chose to play up that concept,” he said.
Indeed, the formal title of that resolution is, “Establishing a policy to take cost-effective actions that benefit the community by reducing local greenhouse gas emissions” [emphasis added].
That resolution never spelled out exactly what “cost effective” means. However, it did set forth a specific emission reduction goal: 7% below the city’s estimated 1990 emissions — which means preventing emissions of 350,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. The city’s Climate Action Plan (called for in that resolution, and finalized September 2006) established a target time frame for reductions: by 2012.
The bottom line is, this significant reduction is due in not a whole lot of time. In order to achieve this self-assigned goal, Boulder will need to get the biggest bang possible for its carbon tax bucks.
Therefore, it’s useful to explore what “cost effective” really means, and how much that principal is really driving the city’s climate action efforts…
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Boulder, CO’s new carbon tax, which went into effect April 1, is just the latest chapter in the city’s ongoing quest to find ways to pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Following the money is a big part of the Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker project, So here’s a brief history lesson…