City of Steamboat exploring expanding renewable energy policies
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The city of Steamboat Springs is exploring several policies that aim to boost the amount of renewable energy used in the city.
City facilities used 6.468 million kilowatts of electricity, a total of $833,104 worth of power purchased from the Yampa Valley Electric Association in 2018. Twenty-five percent of YVEA’s power is generated from renewable energy sources, and the city generates 5 kilowatts of its own power annually from solar panels atop the Steamboat Springs Community Center.
In a work session Tuesday, July 9, Steamboat Springs City Council discussed renewable energy policies and directed staff to pursue 11 action items related to the city’s energy consumption. The discussion came about as City Council works toward a goal of advancing environmental sustainability.
This includes exploring renewable energy projects within city limits, such as a solar garden at the Steamboat Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“I think we all agree that sounds like a good idea, if feasible,” council member Lisel Petis said. The city also wanted to explore regional partnerships in renewable energy, which are needed to earn grant funding from the Colorado Division of Local Affairs.
The city will also review the vehicles set for replacement in the city fleet — the vehicles used by public safety departments, public works and other nontransit city departments — to explore adding more electric or hybrid vehicles.
The city is currently completing a study of its greenhouse gas emissions. Once the results of that study are available, City Council hopes to set a target level of renewable energy use. At the state level, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently announced a goal of powering the state with 100% renewable energy by 2040.
After the study, the city will also examine participating in a community renewable energy project and purchasing renewable power.
In public comment, Yampa Valley Electric Association General Manager Steve Johnson encouraged the council to work with the utility, both on specific components of the city’s renewable energy discussions, such as a solar garden on city land, and more broadly in considering infrastructure and policy decisions.
Another policy recommendation would examine the franchise fees YVEA pays to the city for placing utilities within city-owned rights of way, such as streets. The city and YVEA are currently reviewing a franchise agreement between the two entities.
Council President Pro Temp Kathi Meyer suggested exploring a slight increase to this fee to fund energy efficiency efforts within the city. Revenue from franchise fees currently helps pay for the city to run overhead utility lines underground.
City Council directed the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission to consider relaxing some city zoning codes, which could see reduced setbacks and less stringent building height requirements for solar arrays. The city could also adopt zoning standards for solar gardens within the city.
The city will also explore an excise tax or permit fee exemption for solar arrays to incentivize solar energy in Steamboat.
The city will also re-examine a previous energy audit, which identified renewable energy goals, to find projects recommended by the audit that were not completed.
To view City Council’s discussion on this topic, visit steamboatsprings.net/agendas.
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At 7 p.m. Thursday, the Yampa River’s temperature was 72 degrees at a spot in the Chuck Lewis Wildlife Area south of Steamboat. That’s about 15 degrees higher than the typical average.