EnergySmart Gets Smarter: Revisiting Boulder’s Award Winning Program

ARTICLE | Nov 9, 2015

An interview with Elizabeth Vasatka, Business Sustainability Coordinator, City of Boulder’s Departm

This interview is part of the Alliance’s series that looks at past innovation award winners and TLG case study presenters to see how the innovative programs and projects have progressed and evolved. In 2012, the City of Boulder’s EnergySmart program was awarded the Alliance’s Robert J Havlick Award for Innovation in Government. In September 2010, Boulder City Council adopted three ordinances requiring all of Boulder’s rental housing – approximately half of the city’s housing stock – to meet energy efficiency standards by 2019. The new SmartRegs requirements went into effect in January 2011, and are part of the Climate Action Plan’s (CAP) “Reduce Use” strategy area, which was established to promote energy-conserving behavior in homes and businesses throughout Boulder. So, where is the program today?

1. How has the EnergySmart program changed previous practice and improved the organization from 2013 to present?

The EnergySmart program is customer focused and has been revised and retooled to integrate lessons learned from the past programs. An energy advisor works with residents and businesses to Sheppard them through the process of energy efficiency decisions for homes and businesses and/or commercial building owners. 

2. How have you determined its success?  What measurements have you used?

Through many iterations of reporting formats to City Council and the public, the city landed on visual dashboards as the main reporting tool that is posted on the city’s web site quarterly.  The dashboards for both residential and commercial programs list; participation, upgrades, rebates issued, energy and greenhouse gas avoided as a result of the programs’ accomplishments.

3. Any lessons learned from implementing this process (which began in 2010) that you’d like to share with other local governments?

As I mentioned above, being customer focused is key and having a “one-stop-shop” to lessen the amount of people that a resident or commercial building owners have to work with is an important design function in energy efficiency programs.  We’ve done this by creating an advocate (energy advisor) for the customer who is unbiased and working on behalf of the program, not a specific contractor that is selling a service.  The advisor has the customers’ best interest in mind and assists in helping the customer complete the work. The energy advisor model has been replicated throughout utility programs across the county due to our program’s successful advising to action rates.

4. Is this program replicable to other organizations? If so, please describe:

Yes, energy consulting firms are replicating this service throughout the county and selling it to utility companies offering demand side management programs. As long as organizations have a funding source, program managers and good contractors in their area, this is completely replicable. Or another way to support these programs is working closely with your local utility and using good outreach and communication techniques to create awareness and benefits of energy efficiency improvements to homes and businesses.

5. What does the future of the program hold?

As this program matures and reaches more and more of the building stock, homes and commercial buildings will reduce wasted energy and hopefully become more comfortable for their occupants. This in turn, will reduce a community’s energy load and reduce utility costs for participants. The sources of funding is not secured in perpetuity, so funding needs to continue to be able to reach more homeowners, property owners and businesses with their energy efficiency improvements.  The city is currently on a path to create a new municipal electric utility, if this happens, this program could be rolled into the utility’s demand side management offerings in the energy services department of a new utility. Otherwise, the program’s future could be limited or expanded due to partner funding and other jurisdictions’ contribution and participation.

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