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Colorado Springs, Colo., Expands Its Clean Energy Toolkit

New funding and a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy is giving six communities across the country new resources in the push to expand their use of renewable energy technology.

Aerial vew of Colorado Springs, Colo., at dusk.
Colorado Springs, Colo., at Dusk
Shutterstock/Jacob Boomsma
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently unveiled a significant funding initiative, allocating up to $25 million through a Clean Energy to Communities (C2C) partnership program.

The program aims to foster collaboration between local governments, electric utilities and community-based organizations in six communities nationwide. In partnership with the DOE’s national laboratories, participants will have the support and resources to drive innovation and progress in the renewable energy, mobility, grid infrastructure and building sectors. The ultimate goal of the program is to eliminate some of the barriers and risks associated with the adoption of clean energy solutions.

Colorado Springs, Colo., was one of the cities chosen for the C2C partnerships program. Officials there joined forces with the Colorado Springs Utilities Department, the Energy Resource Center, the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, and Careers in Construction Colorado to research and implement various clean energy technologies including solar, grid-connected buildings, electric vehicles (EVs) and potentially virtual power plants down the line.

“We are undergoing a pretty significant energy transition right now, as a lot of energy providers in the industry are, to progress towards a mix of predominantly natural gas and renewable energy, so this program folds perfectly into our overall sustainable energy plans,” explained Steve Berry, senior public affairs specialist for the Colorado Springs utilities department. “We’re working to meet the tenant of an 80 percent carbon emission reduction by 2030, while also fortifying our electric grid and making sure it’s adaptable and resilient for emerging tech demands as we move forward.”

Brett Jackson, energy project manager at Colorado Springs Utilities, noted that the C2C program came to the city’s attention during their ongoing engagement in community partnerships focused on addressing residents’ technological needs. Recently, the need for a clean energy transition became an obvious necessity, he said.

“We’d been engaged in our community and had already begun working with several partners to understand the regulatory implications of clean energy tools and where there was a keen alignment opportunity to further expand technological partnerships, which led us to apply for the C2C program,” he said.

Currently, the city is in the early stages of formulating what its clean energy transition will look like, but the pressure to meet ambitious targets means that several options are being considered.

“Recent state regulations have ushered in an era of fast and ambitious decarbonization targets for us to meet,” said Kaitlin Haslam, a Colorado Springs energy resource planning engineer. “Those will impact our overall energy transition, and what we move towards as things progress, so virtual power plants may be one method that we could potentially review, as well as connectivity through smart devices. Regardless, we want to focus on how our customers’ needs are changing and then optimize our resources through the C2C program to create a mix of tech tools to aggregate power from multiple resources.”

Jackson said their departments plan to leverage the knowledge gleaned from previous involvement in solar projects within the city, combining lessons learned synergistically with the support offered through the partnership.

“We’ll be able to bring that insight into this planning effort to help establish and delegate what our next system will look like from a solar and interoperability perspective,” he shared.

Expanding EV support in the city is another untapped tech objective the partnership is poised to improve for Colorado Springs. Jackson said the collaboration will allow for the use of probabilistic modeling around adoption rates for a clearer picture of grid impact and the clearest path to integration.

“Electric vehicle support is really one of the areas that we need a lot more definition around, as I believe is the case for a lot of communities,” Jackson added.

The city is excited about the overall impact of the C2C collaboration as they move forward with their various clean energy plans — hoping to lean on the collective for not just funding but technological and regulatory insights while working with the DOE’s national laboratories.

“We’re going to need all the tools, all resources of the program, to be able to meet the regulatory requirements that are coming our way and to be poised to meet the changing needs of our customers,” Haslam explained. “The DOE’s national laboratories possess the capability to offer insights into the common challenges faced by utilities across the nation because, at the end of the day, we’re all working towards the same objectives.”

The other communities selected for the program include Chicago; the Delaware Valley in Pennsylvania and New Jersey; Moloka‘i, Hawaii; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Sitka, Alaska.
Ashley Silver is a staff writer for Government Technology. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Montevallo and a graduate degree in public relations from Kent State University. Silver is also a published author with a wide range of experience in editing, communications and public relations.