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Boulder County, Colorado


Location: Boulder, Denver, and Garfield Counties, Colorado
Seed Funding: $25 million
Target Building Type: Residential and commercial
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View Presentations:
EnergySmart: Energy Efficiency at Your Service September 30, 2011
Outreach Strategies From Better Buildings Grantees: San Antonio and Boulder September 14, 2010

Customized Programs Help Energy Efficiency Rise in Three Colorado Counties

Surveys of homeowners in Boulder County, Colorado, revealed that most residents overestimate the efficiency of their homes. Consequently, they aren't compelled to get a home energy evaluation. Surveys of Boulder's businesses found that more than 75% are interested in energy efficiency upgrades, but have not taken action.

With $25 million in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, Boulder, Denver, and Garfield Counties are working to change those statistics and spur Colorado homeowners and businesses into energy-saving action. Since January 2011, these Better Buildings communities have paired homeowners and business owners with an Energy Advisor—an expert to help move from assessment to upgrade with minimal hassle. Pairing financing incentives with step-by-step assistance has effectively addressed many key barriers in the energy upgrade process, resulting in energy improvements and happy customers.

Boulder County Drives Energy Efficiency With Promotions and Financing
Denver Targets Small Businesses and Neighborhoods to Increase Impact
Garfield County Coaches Residents and Building Owners Through the Process

Boulder County Drives Energy Efficiency With Promotions and Financing

EnergySmart has taken several innovative approaches to drive demand for energy improvements. Carrotmob Boulder is a campaign started by students at the University of Colorado, Boulder and CoPIRG Energy Service Corp., that seeks to influence local businesses to promote environmentally friendly and sustainable practices. A carrotmob is a contest among businesses to see which one will make the biggest commitment to a social cause (in this case, reducing energy use). Customers are then encouraged to patronize the business that wins the contest over a period of time. This "buycott," as opposed to a "boycott," uses a "carrot" rather than "stick" approach. EnergySmart is working closely with Carrotmob Boulder to provide energy advising for businesses interested in the carrotmob. Carrotmob Boulder creates the buzz, and EnergySmart helps the businesses with energy upgrades.

EnergySmart is also reaching students and their families with the Teach for Sustainability campaign. Students learn about energy saving behaviors through characters like Kilowatt Kid, Count Plugula, and Dr. Drafty. They can also participate in a fun contest—the Kilowatt Kidz EnergySmart Challenge—to reduce energy use by 5% at home. Nearly 200 students participated in the pilot program, and the following cycle was so popular it had a wait list.

Once a home or business signs up to participate in EnergySmart, a professional energy advisor guides the building owner through each step of the process, coordinating the energy evaluation, interpreting results, providing a list of qualified contractors, and filling out financial forms. The process starts with the energy evaluation; EnergySmart covers all but $120 of the $555 evaluation cost for homeowners. The energy advisor also installs some instant energy-saving devices such as compact fluorescent light bulbs, water-saving showerheads, and pipe insulation, at no additional cost. One year after EnergySmart launched, more than 95% of surveyed customers said they would recommend the advisor's services to friends or neighbors.

In addition to rebates up to $1,000 per home and up to $10,000 per business, for a limited time, EnergySmart is financing low-interest loans through a partnership with Elevations Credit Union. In spring 2012, Boulder County residents and businesses were given the opportunity to participate in an energy-efficient loan program that is also available to Denver residents. In an effort to facilitate projects without the upfront costs, the loan program offers low-interest loans for energy improvements and the opportunity to finance solar projects after a 15% energy reduction has been met in the home or business. The lending capital is provided through Elevations Credit Union, and Boulder and Denver Counties are funding a loan loss reserve. Residential loans are offered from $500 to $25,000 and commercial loans from $1,000 to $40,000.

EnergySmart also provides services to the commercial sector in Boulder, including free energy evaluations to identify energy and money saving opportunities, an equipment tune-up program to help businesses optimize their current systems, assistance with identifying a contractor, and rebates for equipment upgrades.

Denver Targets Small Businesses and Neighborhoods to Increase Impact

The Denver Energy Challenge provides energy advising to residents and businesses within the City and County of Denver. While almost all business types are eligible to participate, the program has focused on small business owners who typically cannot afford to spend time navigating the process, yet the benefits can help save the business money on overall operating costs. Denver Energy Challenge advisors provide business owners one-on-one customized energy efficiency options to meet their businesses' needs. They also help business owners with bids, pricing, and understanding payback periods. Demand for energy upgrades has been driven by contractor promotions, word of mouth, and the friendly competition that exists among businesses.

A free home energy advisor is also available to Denver residents to help homeowners cut energy use while improving indoor comfort and air quality. Energy advisors walk residents through the upgrade process, help prioritize installations, find qualified contractors, and ensure that appropriate rebates or financing are applied for and received.

In May 2012, the program launched an energy call center that provides start-to-finish advising and has helped produce a 72% conversion rate for all participants in the program. The call center and in-person advising has shown to be a valuable resource in helping residents understand their options and ultimately implement projects that make the most sense for their home and wallet. For additional information about Denver Energy Challenge's activities, read their program profile.

"These funds will create a one-stop-shop for residents to retrofit their homes and businesses, helping families save money on their energy bills."

Jared Polis
U.S. Representative

Garfield County Coaches Residents and Building Owners Through the Process

Prior to receiving seed funding from Better Buildings, the Garfield Clean Energy program struggled to convert energy evaluations to actual upgrades. Of those who did make upgrades, even fewer filed for available utility rebates.

To encourage residents and business owners to take the next step in reducing energy use by taking advantage of utility rebates, Garfield Clean Energy is placing advertisements in numerous local newspapers, working with local chambers of commerce, and presenting at local organizations' meetings. The program utilizes two full-time energy coaches who promote the program, perform energy evaluations, and recommend energy efficiency improvements.

To lower the cost of energy efficiency upgrades, Garfield Clean Energy partnered with the Colorado Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) to create the Garfield Clean Energy Credit Reserve Fund (GCECRF) program. This program is designed to incentivize local banks to offer financing for energy efficiency and clean energy improvements to both homes and small businesses. Alpine Bank launched its financing program in May 2012 using the credit reserve fund. As a result, homeowners now have access to loans ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 with interest rates of 5-8%. For additional information about Garfield Clean Energy's activities, read their program profile.


Susie Strife
Boulder County

Tom Herrod
Denver County

Erica Sparhawk
Garfield County

U.S. Department of Energy
Better Buildings Neighborhood Program