Vail, Eagle County work on bringing more clean electricity to community

The cities of Vail and Avon are ready to equip their transit fleets with fully electric buses.
Daily file photo

Here is one phrase you will hear more: “beneficial electrification”.

This phrase relates to the goals of the Eagle County Climate Action Collaborative. This group, made up of members from Eagle County, local cities, and nonprofits, is working to reduce the county’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to 2014.

Much of this work will involve electrifying transport and the valley’s buildings.

Colorado is one of the fastest growing electric vehicle states. According to a study from 2018, the market share of electric vehicles increased by more than 66% compared to 2017. Still, electric vehicle sales in Colorado accounted for just 2.6% of all vehicle sales in 2018.

However, Kristen Bertuglia, director of environmental sustainability at Vail, said Eagle County is doing better than the state as a whole when it comes to adopting electric vehicles.

And vehicle technology in combination with the expansion of the charging infrastructure makes electric vehicles more practical for more people.

Urban transportation systems are a little easier to adapt to electric vehicles, and Vail and Avon are both building their electric bus fleets.

According to a model by the Climate Action Collaborative, the introduction of electric vehicles has the greatest potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the district.

Electrifying buildings

In addition to the use of vehicles, the advantageous electrification of buildings offers the next best potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

New technologies are making electrical houses much cheaper these days. While old-style electric baseboard heating can be far more expensive than natural gas heating, everything from home heating to the stove is far more efficient these days, according to Bertuglia. A study in the city of Arvada shows that retrofitting existing structures is prohibitively expensive. In other words, the new construction or the renovation of existing buildings is the way to electrification.

Energy Smart Colorado can evaluate existing structures and there are various discount programs offered by Energy Smart, Holy Cross Energy, and other sources.

Vail City Councilor Kim Langmaid founded the Walking Mountains Science Center and has long been a sustainability advocate. Langmaid said the Climate Action Collaborative had done a lot of research that could help the city make decisions about infrastructure renewal.

One of the biggest changes will be moving the boilers that fire the city’s snowmelt system from gas to electricity. Indeed, on April 6th, the Council would discuss these and other changes.

Langmaid described the possible transition to more electricity as “exciting”.

Bring in more strength

These changes require more electricity.

Holy Cross powers most of Eagle County, including Vail. Can this utility supply more electricity and still meet its 2030 goal of getting 100% of its electricity from renewable sources?

In an email, Holy Cross CEO Bryan Hannegan wrote that Holy Cross “is ready to develop additional clean energy projects or contract additional clean power supplies to meet the additional demand.”

Hannegan added that Holy Cross’s recent requests for suggestions suggest that there is no shortage of opportunities for (Holy Cross) to develop clean energy resources at an economically competitive price.

Generating electricity from clean sources is an essential part of beneficial electrification.

Without the work of Holy Cross, the pursuit of more electrification would not be very important.

“If we’re still on coal, none of it would make a difference,” said Bertuglia, who is also an elected member of the Holy Cross Energy Board of Directors.

Solar, wind and other energy sources are leading the search for clean energy sources. Bertuglia found that nuclear power plants are also clean sources. She added that these facilities are very expensive and can take decades from proposal to construction to operation.

As the county and its communities work to reduce our collective carbon footprint, Langmaid said progress has been made.

“We’re fine,” said Langmaid. “But we definitely have work to do.”

Comments are closed.