On November 2, Boulder celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the now infamous 2B/2C vote that opened the door for Boulder to become the energy leader it is today.
Thousands joined the party at the site of Boulder’s 20th solar garden installation where the Mayor cut the ribbon on an investment helping Boulder achieve the once thought unattainable 100% renewable energy generation goal.
“We’ve finally done it!” said the mayor to an exuberant crowd. “We’re the first city in the nation to achieve a cost effective and sustainable electric grid that’s no longer dependent on fossil fuels for electricity. Now many other cities are following our lead!”
Next month Boulder’s Mayor will receive on behalf of the City the “Global Energy Pioneer Award” at the International Climate Conference being held in Denver. Boulder City Council members and staff will speak about the Boulder Light and Power model, which cities around the globe are working to replicate in order to reach their carbon reduction goals and comply with the 2012 Global Climate Accord.
Boulder’s carbon emissions have decreased by 82% since 2011 through a number of innovative programs that moved the city rapidly and affordably from coal-burning to renewable energy, promoted energy efficiency, and encouraged investments in electric cars and electric public transportation. Public Health officials also noted the improvement of Boulder’s air quality, with Boulder moving from “F” to an “A” grade for ozone by the American Lung Association.
The city’s “Go Solar Boulder” Program, which provides low-interest loans for residents and business owners to purchase solar and micro-wind systems and rewards them with almost double retail rate for the clean energy their systems provide to the Boulder grid during peak hours of the day, has been very successful. Fifty five percent of households in Boulder now participate in the program.
“Who would have thought it?” said one program participant. “I have friends looking to move up from Denver to take part in the City’s solar program. My eight-kilowatt PV system actually provides me with all my energy plus enough money to pay off my student loans.”
Boulder’s electric rates and reliability are also among the best in the nation, due in large part to the state-of-the-art Smart Grid system installed in 2014, undergrounding of power lines, and the now complete transition from coal and gas to renewables. The unprecedented rise in coal prices and supply constraints, for which most of our nation’s major electric utility providers were unprepared, has been blamed for widespread rolling brownouts and blackouts elsewhere.
“With all of the recent grid failures across the country, it gives me great peace of mind to know that I can wake up in the morning, turn on my coffee maker and 3D laptop, and know that our local system’s reliability is among the best in the country,” said one partygoer.
The Boulder Smart Grid provides real-time feedback to customers on current city electrical load, rewards customers for conservation efforts during peak load hours, and makes use of residents’ plug-in electric vehicles batteries to store nighttime wind energy resources for use during peak hours. 71% of residents now own electric plug-in vehicles thanks to the city’s “Plug Into the Sun” program, which is modeled after and synergizes with the city’s “Go Solar Boulder” program—providing rebates and monthly rewards for use of the vehicles’ battery systems.
With all of the new solar coming online, city officials recently announced acceleration of Boulder’s electric bus and light rail system, which will provide public transportation to all areas of Boulder and will connect with the Denver Metro area. With gasoline at $8.50 per gallon, many residents are looking to take advantage of the new transportation system for their daily commutes.
Boulder Chamber representatives spoke about the boon to local business from the City’s energy programs, low rates and high reliability, which have attracted numerous companies and entrepreneurs. “Renewable energy and energy tech companies have grown considerably in the last decade providing thousands of new jobs and stimulating the local economy, which has maintained its resilience in the face of the ongoing worldwide economic recession.”
Mayor Martinez ended his statement to rapturous applause with, “Thanks to the courageous voters in 2011 who provided the vision for Boulder Light and Power by passing ballot measures 2B and 2C. The decision to investigate the costs and feasibility for a municipal utility proved to be very smart indeed and got us to where we are today.”
Micah Parkin is a member of Boulder’s Clean Energy Technical Team, Renewablesyes.org and is the Colorado and Regional Organizer for 350.org, a worldwide grassroots climate campaign that formally endorsed Ballot Measures 2B and 2C.
Nathan Parkin is a financial analyst and peak oil and economic contraction blogger.