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Aspen, Colorado

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The City of Aspen is located in the Rocky Mountains in the state of Colorado and home to just over 6,658 (2016) people. As one of the most famous skiing resorts in the USA, Aspen (Colorado) welcomes many tourists per year. Therefore, during the winter time the population of the village grows from approximately 7.000 to 50.000 people. That means Aspen has to deal with a several times higher energy consumption in winter compared to the rest of the year. What was started in 1885 as Aspen became one of the first American municipalities to use hydroelectric power was extended to a community which is supplied with 86% Renewable Energy in the year 2014.

The target to provide Aspen with 100% Renewable Electricity originates in the year 2005 when the city created the Canary Initiative, which identifies Aspen and other mountain communities as “canaries in the coal mine” with respect to their sensitivity to the effects of climate change. The initiative included Canary Action Plan, adopted in 2005, which sets ambitious goals to reduce GHG emissions. At the heart of these reduction targets is the conversion of the energy supply which is meant to be free of fossil fuels by 2015.

In cooperation with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory the city developed a strategy how to achieve this target. Investments in renewable energy have enabled the utility to progressively replace fossil fuels. Finally, in August of 2015, the City of Aspen municipally owned electric utility achieved 100% renewable energy, by signing of a contract with the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska, a wholesale electric energy provider. Since then, the energy mix in the electricity sector is assembled by 46% hydro, 53% wind and 1% landfill gas energy.

The new wind contract, which provides 95% of the new renewable energy, allows the city to only buy what it needs to keep it close to 100% renewable energies. The advantage of this arrangement is that it affords crucial supply management flexibility for dealing with inconsistencies in energy production from Aspen’s other resources, especially according the high fluctuation in hydro power, and it allows the city to avoid situations in which they are forced to buy energy they cannot use. Today, electricity is generated from hydro (46%), wind power (53%), and landfill gas (1%).

This achievement was significant not only in the reduction of Aspen’s carbon footprint, but also because it allowed the City of Aspen to catalyze renewable energy development in the western United States. In addition to this achievement, Aspen is attending the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition. This two year competition awards $5 million to the town that reduces residential energy use the most.

Further Aspen announced to set another target, according a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction of 30% below 2004 levels by 2020 and 80% below those levels by 2050 for both government operations and community-wide (all sectors).

Further information to be found below:


Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Image by Flickr, Gina Collecchia

General Details

Timeline: 100% RE in electricity sector by 2015
Contact: Political: Ashley Perl, Climate Action Manager, Environmental Health and Sustainability, Utility Division, Technical: David Hornbacher, Director of Utilities, Public Works Division
More information: Click

Status Quo

Percentage of RE in the total energy consumption:
electricity sector: hydro (46%), wind (53%), and landfill gas (1%)

Project Features

Scope of engagement
yes Local/regional
Quality of the objectives
yes Terminated
Binding effect of the objectives
yes 100% REobjective is used without official decision
Energy savings objective
yes Energy Efficiency Target