CSU’s renewable energy goals to be determined by City of Fort Collins

Julia Trowbridge

CSU’s greenhouse gas footprint for the fiscal year of 2017, statistics received from Energy Engineer Carol Dollard. (Infographic by Samantha Shepardson)

Colorado State University is looking to the City of Fort Collins to help with its renewable energy goals.

From around 65 proposed projects presented to CSU for renewable energy resources, the University decided not to choose a vendor to keep on track with their 2030, 100 percent renewable electricity goal.

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Instead, CSU and the City of Fort Collins, which is also considering a total renewable electricity goal for 2030, are looking at a green tariff. This would provide green energy through the Platte River Power Authority, the power source for the Northern Colorado area.

The decision, which happened at the beginning of the summer, was made because Colorado operates in a closed energy market, which means that individuals or corporations in Colorado cannot choose their own energy provider, that is decided by location.

CSU Energy Engineer Carol Dollard said the green tariff would be a renewable energy tax, preferably from a source of renewable energy such as wind, that would allow CSU and the City of Fort Collins to use renewable energy while not bringing on the expenses of a vendor. CSU is hoping to have a plan before the end of the year, but it will really depend on the City, where CSU buys their energy from, for a plan to actually be put in effect.

“If the City goes 100 percent renewable electricity, then that makes my job easy, cause we buy from the City,” Dollard said. “Obviously we support that, our goals are well aligned.”

The City of Fort Collins will vote on an official community-wide renewable electricity plan on Oct. 2, according to Tim McCollough, light and power operations manager for Fort Collins.

Dollard, who oversees sustainability aspects of the University, said this collaboration between the University and the City will be beneficial in the long run.

“It was decided at the end that it was the best interest of the University to work directly through the utilities… to get to a green tariff that would be a better result for everybody,” Dollard said.

Dollard said there are other businesses like New Belgium and Odell Brewing Company who also want renewable electricity.

The original five customers in Fort Collins that advocated for green tariffs make up 13 percent of the City’s electric load, which is a significant percentage, Dollard said.

The Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter, a grassroots environmental organization, is encouraging Fort Collins to commit to a 100 percent renewable electricity goal by 2030 and for Loveland to commit by 2035. Longmont has set a 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 goal and Fort Collins has one in the works.

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If a plan is chosen, Dollard said she suspects this would sway Platte River Power Authority to improve on their carbon-free energy sources and convert to 100 percent renewable electricity as well. 

“If Fort Collins makes that goal, that obviously puts pressure on Platte River, because now it’s not just six or eight big customers asking for this, it’s a whole city,” Dollard said. “And Platte River has those four member cities, and Fort Collins is the biggest of the four. Fort Collins becomes the gorilla in the room for Platte River, so I think that will be a really interesting dynamic if that passes.”

Collegian reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at news@collegian.com or on twitter @chapin_jules.