Fort Collins on track to meet first carbon emissions milestone

Samantha Ye

Fort Collins continues to progress ever closer to carbon neutrality, as Mayor Wade Troxell announced at Friday’s ClimateWise Envirovation event that the City’s carbon emissions for 2017 were 17 percent lower than in 2005, down 2 percent from 2016, according to a press release from the city.

Previous reports put 2016 at only having a 12 percent reduction, but updated data and other methodology improvements has revised it to 15 percent for that year.

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This puts the City on track to meet the goals established in the Climate Action Plan, City Environmental Data Analyst Molly Saylor wrote in an email to The Collegian.

The goals are to reduce emissions 20 percent from the 2005 base year by 2020, 80 percent by 2030 and by 2050, become carbon neutral, or have net zero emissions.

Fort Collins set 2005 as its baseline emissions year because it aligns with the baseline of many cities, states—including Colorado—and countries, thus adding the benefit of comparability and consistency, Saylor wrote.

Per capita, carbon emissions have already decreased 35 percent since 2005, wrote Saylor.

The main contributor to the progress from 2016 to 2017 was the 5 percent drop in electricity emissions, Saylor wrote.

“A decrease in electricity use and an increase in solar and hydropower were the two main drivers of this progress,” Saylor wrote. “Electricity represents 51 percent of our carbon inventory so these improvements have a significant impact.”

Lindsay Ex, City climate program manager, wrote that the 2017 energy efficiency programs show energy savings equivalent to over 28,600 megawatt an hour, generating an excess $38 million in local economic benefits through reduced utility bills, direct rebates and leveraged investment.

One program, ClimateWise, provides participating local business solutions to save money and gain recognition for waste reduction and energy conservation, among other things. 

“In 2017, ClimateWise Partners realized $460,289 in annual savings by implementing cost-effective strategies to be more efficient and reduce operating costs, all while reducing emissions by almost 16,000 metric tons of CO2,” Ex wrote.

These factors, along with the rapid pace of solar installations which now exceed the 10MW threshold for locally installed solar capacity and increased waste diversion from landfills, have helped put Fort Collins on a downward emissions trend, Ex wrote.

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Saylor wrote that while the trend will likely not be linear due to too many unpredictable factors such as weather, policy changes and technological advancements, a development such as the Platte River Power Authority recently purchasing 150 megawatt of utility scale wind power to come online in the early 2020s will have a significant positive impact.

The City will also be partnering with Town Square Media next month to launch “Take 2,” a marketing campaign to engage residents to replace lights with efficient LEDs and make one less car trip each week, Ex wrote. 

There are also the Innovate Fort Collins Challenge projects.

To encourage more community participation, projects proposals which reduce greenhouse gas emissions may be granted from $3,000 to $75,000, according to the City website.

Applicants for the 2018 challenge can submit a letter of intent no later than May 18. 

The 2017 grant winners included Colorado State University ($44,550) for developing an online transportation and safety education module and Front Range Community College ($65,212) for solar photovoltaic panels and an electric vehicle charging station at the Harmony Library, which were installed in recent months.

Katy McLaren, senior environmental planner, wrote that the City has been kept up to date on the projects through quarterly reports and will be providing an update in coming weeks on the City’s website.

Collegian reporter Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.