Green as grass
EPA ranks Boulder No. 8 as energyefficient mid-size city
It’s not easy being green for Kermit, but it sure is for Boulder. A new ranking from the EPA puts Boulder as one of the country’s most energy-efficient mid-size cities. Suck on that, talking frog.
Boulder is one of the countr y’s most energyef ficient mid-size cities, according to a 2021 ranking by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
This ranking showcases a list of cities with the highest number of buildings that meet the EPA’s Energy Star cer tification. The list is broken down into three categories of metro areas based on size. Boulder claimed the No. 8 spot in the mid-sized group this year, beneath cities like San Jose, Calif.; Des Moines, Iowa; and Nashville, Tenn.
“We’re ver y excited to see Boulder make it that high on the list,” said Carolyn Elam, energy manager within the Depar tment of Climate Initiatives for Boulder. “We’re also really proud of Denver, who ranked in the top 10 for the larger cities.”
There are 32 Energy Starcertified commercial buildings in and around Boulder. The buildings that achieve this cer tification are verified to be more energy-ef ficient than 75% of similar buildings nationwide.
“Our buildings have been making significant improvements, such as installing more-ef ficient lighting, insulation and cooling equipment,” Elam said .
Solar power has been impor tant in Boulder’s energyefficiency journey. Private residents and commercial business owners alike have been installing more and more solar panels in recent years. According to Elam, the city locally generates about 50 megawatts of solar energy.
Boulder’s 32 buildings used significantly less energy than typical facilities; Their collective ef ficiency ef forts prevented over 8,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere. The buildings also saved a combined $1.6 million on utility bills. With how many people who worked from home since the star t of the pandemic last spring, the infrequent use of commercial buildings was most likely a factor in Boulder’s energy ef ficiency success as a whole.
The city’s primar y goal, Elam says, is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In par ticular, the continued use of natural gas by many businesses is still a troubling reality that the Depar tment of Climate Initiatives hopes to mitigate going for ward.
In 2019, Boulder reported a 21% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions since 2005. The emissions data for 2020 won’t be available until at least August, but Elam asser ts Boulder is “on track” to meet the goal put in place by its Climate Mobilization Action Plan — complete reliance on renewable energy by 2030. The city added the goal of becoming carbon positive by2040.
Jonathan Koehn, interim director of climate initiatives, emphasizes equity as a key goal for the future, since lowincome communities tend to have less access to renewable energy solutions. Most of the buildings that made the list are concentrated in the central par ts of Boulder. This is largely because of their high concentrations of commercial buildings, but it is still indicative of this larger issue.
Koehn shared that the city is looking for new and creative ways to alleviate the energy inequity in Boulder. The recent implementation of a solar garden that provides energy exclusively to low-income residents is just one example of this creativity.
“Equity continues to be a central design principle in our climate work,” Koehn said. “When we think about the transitions that need to happen across our energy systems, it’s really critical that we recognize the impacts of those transitions and center our work around that equity lens.”