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University of Colorado Boulder

 Policy

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Helping my town to go to 100% renewable electricity

Portrait of Jen Morse

Jen Morse

Research Staff

Niwot Ridge, Colorado has the longest CO2 record in North America, the 3rd longest in the world. Part of my job is to take the weekly samples for this record every Tuesday; skiing or hiking or snowmobiling to 11,500 feet in elevation where the wind rips through your jacket, but at least the air is well mixed for sampling, which is important to us. After the recent election my work was suddenly news. Reporters and broadcasters were calling to find out if they could take a snow cat ride up to Niwot Ridge to see the samples being taken.

I wasn’t expecting to get so many questions about policy. What did I think of Climate denial? Am I worried about funding cuts? I responded that from my perspective on Niwot Ridge - where the average CO2 reading has climbed from 390 to above 405 parts per million in the eight years since I started working for the University - two things seemed evident; climate change is a real problem, and from a technological standpoint, we can solve it. But the question that naturally follows was much harder to answer; so why aren’t we?

Shortly after this I received a text from a friend asking if I wanted to go to a Nederland Sustainability Board meeting. She knew I had been interviewed recently for my work on Niwot Ridge and that Climate Change was on my mind. She had an idea for our small town that she wanted to share with the board: 100% Renewable Electricity.

Nederland’s population is 1,534. It’s a small community about 15 miles and 3,000 vertical feet above Boulder. We use 12.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, or about as much as 5 large grocery stores. 100% renewable seemed very doable. The question of “why aren’t we?”, was now clearly “why aren’t I”?

What followed were four months of long hours working with the Sustainability Advisory Board and a small group of dedicated residents. Together we wrote a resolution to present to Nederland’s Mayor and Trustees, spent time researching what our path to 100 might look like, and requested to get on the agenda at one of the Town’s meetings. It was worth the effort. In August 2017, Nederland became the 4th city in Colorado to pass a 100% Renewable Resolution, the 42nd in the Country.

We are moving forward. In May of 2018 our Board of Trustees voted unanimously to purchase 100% of the electricity for town facilities and services from a Community Solar Garden being built in Weld County. We are working with a group from CU’s Masters of the Environment program to create a 100% plan for businesses and residents. We are partnering with our utility provider (Xcel Energy) and recently signed an MOU with them to work together on our 100% goals. And we are hoping to join Colorado Communities For Climate Change Action (CC4CA) this year to help advocate for greenhouse gas reducing actions at the state and federal level.


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